Wednesday, August 28, 2013

First Date at the Longacre Theatre

The songwriting team of Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner have been friends and colleagues for a very long time. Their best known work has been the Disney Cruise Line musical Twice Charmed, a twist on Cinderella. Teaming up with book writer Austin Winsberg they bring to Broadway the new musical First Date. Pretty much the synopsis is summed up in the title of the show. This is a blind date between uptight Aaron and the edgy and artistic Casey. Just like with any normal blind date these characters are hounded by an ensemble that portrays the well-meaning and occasionally destructive voices in their heads. It should resonate with a lot of theatregoers.

First Date may be too small a show to have a long run on Broadway. It is entertaining and fun, but it does have a number of flaws. The songs that express each character's doubts early in the evening come off as superficial, going for the easy sitcom laugh. This includes such material as Bailout Song (versions 1, 2 and 3) with the stereotypical gay bestie and the song The Girl For You which occurs when it slips out that Casey is not Jewish and hilarity ensues with a comic sledgehammer as everyone bursts into a disapproving family attempt at a showstopper. 

Yet, there are some truly terrific moments in this brisk 90 minute show. Krista Rodriguez's hard-edged Casey gets a deeply satisfying emotional moment in the Safer where she confesses her characters fears and genuine vulnerabilities. Zachary Levi equally gets a similar moment when Aaron relates a heartbreaking moment from his youth, dueting with Sara Chase as Aaron's mother on The Things I Never Said.  It is these little gems that almost stop First Date from simply hitting all the requisite notes of the standard romantic comedy. The audience is laughing and cheering these characters on, but in the end there just isn't a real satisfaction in the end of the date. 

This is a very tight ensemble. The five actors who portray multiple roles, each a part of the main characters' lives, embrace those roles with a great deal of enthusiasm. The real standouts and the best fleshed out of these characters are Sara Chase as Casey's pushy suburban sister Lauren and Bryce Ryness as Aaron's lascivious best friend Gabe. Although Kate Loprest deserves a nod for portraying the ex-girlfriend from H-E-double-LL Allison. 

Krista Rodriguez and Zachary Levi are well matched as the wary daters. Each has great comedic skills and excellent voices.  As Mr. Levi plays the more uptight character he gets the larger growth arc in the play. Let's just say that when he lets loose in In Love With You, it's a major highlight of the evening.

First Date is an intimate romantic comedy that seems too small for Broadway. It is not the greatest show and it it is not the worst. It simply is what it is. First Date is  a fun, quick evening of musical comedy featuring a cast that delivers a charming, but flawed blind date.

First Date is being performed at the Longacre Theater on Broadway in New York City. For tickets and other performance information please contact or