Junkyard Dog Productions
(First Date Website)
Book by Austin Winsberg
Music & Lyrics by Alan Zachary & Michael Weiner
Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez
Sara Chase, Kristopher Cusick
Blake Hammond, Kate Loprest, Bruce Ryness
Directed by Bill Berry
Musical Staging by Josh Rhodes
Music Supervision, Vocal & Incidental Music Arrangements:
220 West 48th Street
Scenic and Media Design: David Gallo
Costume Design: David C. Woolard
Lighting Design: Mike Baldassari
Sound Design: Kai Harada
Hair Design: Josh Marquette
Casting: Telsey + Company
Asst. Director: Brandon Ivie
Assoc. Choreographer: Lee Wilkins
Orchestrations: August Eriksmoen
Conductor: Dominick Amendum
Music Coordinator: Michael Keller
Production Management: Juniper Street Productions, Inc.
Production Stage Manager: Arturo E. Porazzi
Press Agent: The Hartman Group
General Manager: Alchemy Production Group
Carl Pasbjerg & Frank Scardino
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 14, 2013
Full disclosure: This writer has experienced, in the distant past, more than a couple of uncomfortable, even unimaginable “blind dates”. I often thought they could have made a great Off-Broadway show. That’s “Off”, not “On” Broadway. The play being reviewed here, First Date is about what I’d call a standard date, with each participant pretty mainstream and predictable, nothing unimaginable here. A difference in religion? It’s 2013. One character lost his mother at a young age? That’s happened to people since time immemorial. A friend who calls as a “bail out”? I had the same decades ago, and after. Conflicting, inner thoughts, mid-date? “Sex and the City” series did that better, with accompanying monologues. Background characters who suddenly jump into song and dance? Fiddler on the Roof and Sister Act did that better. Poignant mother-son “after death” memory songs? Billy Elliott did that better. Great melodies and lyrics? I sat in the 3rd row, under a speaker, with a good part of the sound distorted and flowing over my head. My guest couldn’t decipher much of the dialogue either, as it was so over-amplified. But the music? It was like mic night.
Having said all the above, I would recommend First Date to New Yorkers and tourists looking for a fun summer show. Krysta Rodriguez as Casey is adorable, filled with facial gestures and great vocal talent, and she exuded charisma on the Broadway stage. Zachary Levi as Aaron had stage presence, as well, although he doesn’t project much tonal strength. Their repartee, sitting in the New York restaurant bar, then bistro table, was on the level of a cable sitcom rerun from the 90’s, but there was warmth and wit. Blake Hammond, as the restaurant waiter, tripling as Casey’s father and a therapist, was well worth the visit, making a tour de force performance with outsized humor of vaudevillian proportions. I look forward to seeing him in future productions. Another outsized character, filled with camp and histrionics was Kristopher Cusick, as Reggie, Casey’s “bailout” friend, with gay gestures and repetitive songs. Oh, wait, Kinky Boots did it better. But, still, he was, at first, hysterical. Bryce Ryness, as Gabe, Aaron’s friend and imaginary coach, who appears in his “bubble thoughts”, was also filled with personality, as he orders him not to get the effeminate salad. Sara Chase morphs from a seated bistro chair (as do all the secondary characters) into Aaron’s deceased mother, as well as Casey’s sister, Lauren, her imaginary, “bubble thought" coach, who orders her not to get the high-fat burger. Kate Loprest is Aaron’s suddenly appearing ex-fiancée, Allison, who left him at the altar and now seduces him in his “bubble thought”.
There’s a hidden, live, rear-stage orchestra, that plays the heavily hyped music, none of which you’ll hum in the aisles. I recommend adjustments to the sound design, pronto. But, the scenic design, with projections of New York bridges and skyscrapers gave me something to observe during my own "bubble thoughts". Ms. Rodriguez’ boots and hip, short skirt were a bit much for a “first date”, but they gave her persona. At one point the “chorus characters”, that is when they’re not morphing into “bubble thought” coaches or deceased relatives, don Orthodox then Catholic church garb to taunt the daters about mixed religious coupling. Really? But, the sequence was, I admit, hilarious in the moment. Bill Berry, Director, keeps the momentum flowing, in this intermission-less 90 minutes or so. It’s late August, everyone deserves a good laugh. Tonight’s audience was enthused. If you want light humor, nothing heavy or complex, go see First Date at the Longacre.
Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez
in "First Date"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus
The Cast of "First Date"
Courtesy of Chris Owyoung