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'The Unauthorized O.C. Musical' joins crowd of nostalgic productions

'The Unauthorized O.C. Musical' joins crowd of nostalgic productions
Christine Lakin as Kirsten and Neil Hopkins as Sandy in "The O.C. Musical" at the Montalban in Hollywood on Aug. 30, 2015. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Tim Young flew 2,720 miles to Los Angeles for one thing and one thing only: "The Unauthorized O.C. Musical."

"I feel like 'The O.C.' came out in a pivotal time in my life where I was finding myself," said the 30-year-old from Pembroke Pines, Fla. "It's stuck with me ever since."

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Eight years after Josh Schwartz's drama "The O.C." closed its hit run on Fox and long after the series launched the careers of Rachel Bilson, Mischa Barton, Adam Brody and Ben McKenzie, "The Unauthorized O.C. Musical" paid homage to the TV show — and its iconic music — with a one-night-only live stage tribute. Tickets for the musical, performed Sunday at 960-seat Montalban Theatre in Hollywood, sold out in 14 minutes. Though seats originally cost $20 to $30, some people resold theirs for as much as $200 on StubHub.

"There's something really exciting about nostalgia," said Jordan Ross, 27, who created the musical with Lindsey Rosin, 30. "These songs take you back to the first time you heard them — who you were and what you felt. I think there's something very warm and comforting about going back to them."

Others clearly agree. "The Unauthorized O.C. Musical" is just the latest example of genre-bending live entertainment that has become increasingly popular among nostalgic fans of movies and TV shows, especially Angelenos who gravitate toward industry-related material.

Earlier this year, Rosin and Ross turned the 1999 cult film "Cruel Intentions" into a musical at the Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz. Buzz grew loud enough that the stars of the film — Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair and Sarah Michelle Gellar — reunited to see the live show.

The "For the Record" series transforms filmmakers' work into cabaret-esque shows, including one based on John Hughes movies. It recently took its wildly successful Baz Luhrmann musical spectacle from the West Hollywood club DBA to Las Vegas.

Kate Pazakis, executive producer and artistic director behind an unauthorized musical adaptation of "Clueless," said audiences gravitate toward new experiences based on familiar pop culture.

"I think that Los Angeles is a movies and TV town, and people love the titles that they already know," Pazakis said, labeling the new theater genre "immersive parody."

Pazakis said she began doing unauthorized parody shows last year, beginning with a musical version of "Scream."

"I just thought of it as a fun way to write a love letter to the movies and TV shows that we already love," she said. "I think it's something fun for people too. They are familiar with the content, and it's coupled with music they know and like. It's a little more accessible to people who may not be theater fans but are looking for an interesting evening out."

At the Montalban, fans began lining up along Vine Street an hour before curtain time, even though seats were preassigned. Some clutched copies of "The O.C." soundtrack, hoping to get them signed by the cast of the musical or any of the TV show's original actors who came to watch.

Others sported themed clothing, such as the "I Love Seth Cohen" T-shirts that were a homage to Brody's character. Ross sported a "Free Marissa" T-shirt, a reference to the fight to get Barton's character back into Harbor School.

Backstage, the actors roamed in and out of the makeup room, taking turns getting touch-ups.

"I'm just trying to figure out my hair situation," said Molly McCook, who played girl-next-door Marissa Cooper.

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While McCook fiddled with her braid, costar Tilky Jones, who played the brooding Ryan Atwood, began humming the show's theme song, Phantom Planet's "California."

"California, here we come," he sang softly, as the makeup artist applied coverup. Jones and McCook then began rehearsing one of their duets.

"Everyone on stage, please!" show co-creator Rosin yelled, ushering cast members for one final sound check. "Who am I missing?"

Enter Greer Grammer, Summer Roberts in the stage show, wearing a flowing pink gown she had just worn on the red carpet of the MTV Video Music Awards that evening across town. "Sorry, I didn't have time to change out of my dress yet," she said.

"Unauthorized O.C." associate producer Haley Hanson shuffled around, making sure everything was good to go for the musical's own red carpet outside. There, "The O.C." creator Schwartz, executive producer Stephanie Savage, and original cast members Bilson, Kelly Rowan (who played Kirsten Cohen) and Melinda Clarke (Julie Cooper) came to show their support.

"It's an awesome tribute to everything we did, it's so nostalgic," Bilson said before running over to hug costar Autumn Reeser, who played Taylor Townsend on the TV show and Julie Cooper for the musical.

Before the actors went onstage, a few superfans fielded trivia questions for prizes that included yamaclauses, the yarmulke-meets-Santa Claus hat featured on "The O.C." during holiday episodes.

The musical — more like a staged reading — re-created the TV show's pilot but incorporated music and moments from throughout the 2003-07 series run, including Seth and Summer's Spider-Man kiss. Seth, played by Brendan Robinson, was a crowd favorite, as audience members laughed and applauded the nerdy hipster's every line.

The show was intimate, stripped of most props. Actors sported the then-popular styles: Marissa in a polo and short skirt, Ryan in a leather jacket, Summer in a jean skirt and hoodie, Seth in an Original Penguin shirt.

As cast members stood at music stands, two large screens displayed images from the pilot, including a photo outside of the Cohen household in Newport Beach.

The set list included indie favorites popularized by the show — "California" (of course), Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah," Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek," Mazzy Star's "Into Dust," plus tracks by Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse, which were guest stars on the television show.

By the end of the night, the words on the Montalban's marquee couldn't have summed up the nostalgia more appropriately: "The Unauthorized O.C. Musical — right back where we started from."

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