By Kelly Fornia
VANCOUVER — Welcome to the O.C., bitch! It’s been 12 years since Fox’s iconic teen drama The O.C. first showed us how it’s done in Orange County and the Vancouver Fringe Festival took theatre-goers on a nostalgia trip by retelling the highlights of the story with The O.C.: The Musical.
With a seven-piece live band (including rock instruments plus horns and violin) and an 18-person cast of singers and dancers, the production almost entirely eschewed The O.C.’s iconic soundtrack — there was no Death Cab or Bright Eyes — in favour of original songs by Stewart Wu. This was a parody that operated on a strictly comic level: any notion that this musical would retain any of the emotional gravitas of the TV show was quickly dispelled when the opening number used the word “poo.”
For those who were unfamiliar with the story, the jokes likely went over their heads, but it was full of laughs for fans of the original series. Joey Coleman stole the show with his spot-on Ryan Atwood impression, which came complete with a black choker, trailer park-chic beater and a preening bad boy allure. Stewart Yu delivered a magnetic performance by playing Julie Cooper as a dazzling drag queen, while Brandon Miller displayed comically oversized eyebrows and a just-one-of-the-boys attitude with his amusing Sandy Cohen.
Yu’s songs served their comic function well, but the musical highlights came when the production pilfered soundtrack moments from the TV series: one tune interpolated Phantom Planet’s “California” theme song, while another one parodied the ever-so-solemn “Hallelujah” and a ludicrous shooting spree scene featured Imogen Heap’s “mmm-whatcha-say” vocal hook.
Eventually, the story wrapped up with a romantic routine between Princess Sparkle and Captain Oats and a festive Chrismukkah carol. If you never watched The O.C., then you don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about; if you did, then this production was a welcome trip down memory lane.
The O.C.: The Musical runs in Vancouver until Sept. 20 at Firehall Arts Centre.BC, British Columbia, Firehall Arts Centre, musical theatre, The O.C., The O.C.: The Musical