|Photo: Chris Owyoung|
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:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexually suggestive lyrics
-- Derogatory term for women used