When I walked into Hollywood’s Montalban Theatre last night for the one night only production of The Unauthorized O.C. Musical, I commented that I had never seen so many millennials in one place. While that word may have a lot of negative connotations, I didn’t mean it in a bad way—it was truly impressive to see the number of people so excited about a relatively short-lived TV show that has been off the air for eight years. The excitement was electric, and there was a tangible feeling of camaraderie that only comes with gathering hundreds of people from the same fandom in one place.
The O.C. Musical was presented by Sucker Love Productions, a company founded by young producers Jordan Ross and Lindsey Rosin. They are also the team behind the wickedly fun Unauthorized Musical Parody of Cruel Intentions, which I loved and wrote about back in June. Primarily thanks to social media and word-of-mouth buzz, they sold out last night’s performance in just 14 minutes, and this was after unexpected demand led them to switch from a much smaller 100 seat venue to the 960 seat Montalban. Prior to the performance, pre-selected audience members were brought onstage to answer O.C. trivia questions. Rachel Bilson (Summer Roberts), Melinda Clarke (Julie Cooper), and Kelly Rowen (Kirsten Cohen) joined creator Josh Schwartz and executive producer Stephanie Savage in the audience to support the production, adding to the super fan fever dream atmosphere.
The show itself was presented in a very similar manner to the Cruel Intentions musical—a straightforward retelling of the story with minimal staging, incorporating covers of popular songs, some of which were featured on the show and some of which were not but fit thematically with the story. Considering that the music featured on it is one of the greatest legacies of The O.C., it is hard to imagine a TV show more ripe for this treatment. Aside from opening with a reenactment of the famous scene where Marissa shoots Trey, the musical covered primarily the pilot episode and ended with a bit of a montage of other famous moments and quotes. Screens in the theater showed screencaps from the pilot throughout the night, tying the presentation together nicely.
Buzzfeed Entertainment Editor Jarett Wieselman portrayed creator Josh Schwartz, serving as the narrator for the evening by reading the stage directions directly from the pilot script. As with Cruel Intentions, the musical choices, guided by musical director Elmo Zapp, were spot on. In addition to iconic O.C. songs “California” and “Champagne Supernova”, selections included “Swing, Swing” by the All-American Rejects, which is featured in the pilot, “Smile Like You Mean It” by The Killers (sung, of course, by Marissa Cooper, portrayed here by LA theater darling Molly McCook who was also fantastic as Annette in Cruel Intentions), Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek”, and a haunting rendition of Jeff Buckley’s classic “Hallelujah.”
The cast was excellent, and persisted in spite of some unfortunate audio problems that are often inevitable in one-time productions like this. In addition to McCook and Wieselman, the cast featured Nashville‘s Tilky Jones as Ryan Atwood, Pretty Little Liars‘ Brendan Robinson as an especially perfect Seth Cohen, Awkward‘s Greer Grammer as Summer Roberts, Drew Seeley as Luke Ward, Christine Lakin as Kirsten Cohen, Neil Hopkins as Sandy Cohen, Autumn Reeser (who appeared on later seasons of the show as Taylor) as Julie Cooper, and musician Betty Who as many of the minor characters. Iconic lines such as Luke’s “welcome to the O.C., bitch” drew huge cheers from the audience. I am sure many audience members went home and immediately re-watched the pilot—I know I was certainly left with the desire to.
Some fans were probably disappointed that the musical did not span more of the series, but I think the decision to primarily focus on a single episode was a smart one. I am curious to see if the Sucker Love team chooses to create similar productions based on different TV shows in the future. I would also not be surprised if last night was not the last we’ll see of The Unauthorized O.C. Musical, given the overwhelming response and number of fans who were shut out of the ticket sales. Overall, it was a triumphant night for the cast, creative team, and fans alike, and proved how powerful nostalgia can be.