Guest contributor Demetra M. Pappas gets to first base at First Date, a new Broadway musical.
I’ve never been optimistic about first dates, but this First Date — one of the first musicals of the 2013-14 Broadway season — is surprisingly fun. One look at the lead characters and the set-up is obvious. Aaron (Zachary Levi, best known for the title role in Chuck) is a buttoned down, tie-wearing guy in a suit; Casey (the powerfully-voiced Krysta Rodriguez, most recently of Smash) is an in-your-face vaguely punk girl. Enter the sage waiter (Blake Hammond) who gives Aaron the first cue to ditch the tie and open his shirt collar, then subsequently reveals insider information to the girl about her awaiting would-be knight is shining armor that prompts her to order two strong drinks from the get-go.
Bailout songs ensue, delivered with increasingly hilarious hysteria by Casey’s BFF, who happens to be a guy. Music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner deliver a familiar pop score as the plot twists and turns to accommodate. In one uproarious scene, Aaron’s grandmother (Sara Chase) rises from the grave to deliver a musical number that follows shiksa Casey’s casual disclosure that she is not Jewish, which also has images of Casey’s father (also played by Hammond), who does an on-stage quick change into a priest, thanks to the comic antics of costume designer David C. Woolard. Almost everyone in the New York tristate has lived and/or witnessed and/or coached a friend or two through this vision of “oy vey” to “exorcist.”
This usually breezy 90-minutes of New York romance is broken by the occasional serious moment, but is a mostly fun unraveling of first date banter, including what Aaron calls “Jewish geography” (a New York variation of six degrees of separation), family matters, various renditions of former girlfriend and reenactments of interior monologues of the lead characters by the supporting players — all deftly staged under the direction of Bill Berry.
Though I didn’t leave the theater humming any songs, First Date has undeniable charm and those frenetically escalating bail out calls are still ringing in my ears. On the surface, Aaron and Casey seem to have nothing in common, but as they progress from drinks to dinner to dessert, a second date seems like a possibility. Are wedding bells in their future? We’ll never know, but played in real time and without an intermission, First Date is a charming look at the trials and tribulations of modern romance.
220 West 48th Street
Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, writes about travel, theater and the arts, cultural and historical experiences, and also writes academic work on euthanasia/assisted suicide, stalking, visual sociology and dramaturgy; her first book, The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate (Greenwood Press, 2012) was nominated and short listed for the 2013 British Society of Criminology Book Prize.