Monday, August 12, 2013

Broadway Theater Review: First Date

Photo: Chris Owyoung
Awkwardness of First Date Transforms into Fun Musical
By Lauren Yarger
What should you wear? How much personal information should you share? That awkward pause when you don't know what to day....

All of those awful elements of a First Date are introduced to each other with a lot of humor and a pop musical score to make a match made in heaven -- or at least on a Broadway stage.

First Date, with music by Austin Winsberg (TV's "Gossip Girl" writer making  his Broadway debut) isn't the first attempt to bring the idea of a blind date to the stage, and it probably won't be the last, but maybe it should be. It's pretty funny and doesn't take itself very seriously -- good advice for a first date, after all.

Bill Berry directs this tongue-in-cheek romp as Aaron (Zachary Levi) and Casey (Krysta Rodriguez) test the waters to see whether there is a chance this is "The One." It doesn't seem so when they first arrive at the restaurant (Scenic and Media Design by David Gallo). The waiter (an engaging Blake Hammond) suggests nerdy Aaron loosen up and lose the tie accenting the suit he wore from the office. Good advice, since artsy Casey's get-up could hardly be classified conservative (Costume Designer David C. Woolard outfits the pair.)

Ensemble cast members play the part of casual diners on the fringe of the date in the restaurant, then suddenly and cleverly leap into the roles of people from the couple's lives or even their thoughts as the date progresses.

He's a Jew; she's not. Suddenly the group morphs into Aaron's Jewish grandmother (Sara Chase) and the teachings of years of tradition about the appropriate "Girl for You." They are countered by a a church choir and a Casey's father with their own pieces of advice. (Lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner are sharp and clever.)

Also popping to mind during the date, which often doesn't seem to be going too well, are some of the bad-boy types Casey has dated (Bryce Ryness and Kristopher Cusick), Aaron's "perfect" ex, Allison (Kate Lopresto), Casey's sister, Lauren (Chase), who is tired of her sister's social life failures and there to remind her about her ticking biological clock... and Aaron's best friend, Gabe (Ryness), who tries to share some of his sure-fire tips to win the girl.

Also interrupting the date is Reggie (Cusick), Casey's hyper gay friend who is placing amusing, pre-arranged "bail out" calls about various emergencies and disasters she can use as an excuse to leave if she wants out of there.

Josh Rhodes stages the musical action to the pop score which is perky and edgy, if a little unfocused in style ranging from sentimental to beat box. Unfortunately, the weakest musical number, "I'd Order Love," doesn't give the talented Hammond a chance to really shine.

There's enough chemistry going on here, however, to keep our interest and make us wonder whether First Date and Broadway might have a lasting relationship.

First Date plays at the Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th St., NYC. For information and tickets: http://firstdatethemusical.com/.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexually suggestive lyrics
-- Derogatory term for women used
-- Homosexuality

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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