‘First Date’ explores modern dating

Posted April 7, 2015


In the dating world, nothing is as equally terrifying and exhilarating as a blind date. Not the kind where you pick your partner through eHarmony or Tinder websites based on similar interests and attractiveness, but the kind where your friends and family set you up—and with a person they plead could be your soul mate. The agony.

“First Date,” a pop-rock musical with ties to Broadway, is now getting its regional premiere at Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre. Packed with original, high energy numbers and a diverse cast, “First Date” is a fun and unpredictable show that explores the many things that could happen—from accidental love to disaster—in a comical debut.

Originally in a book by Austin Winsberg, “First Date” made its first appearance on Broadway with a successful six-month run in 2013. Its original music and lyrics are by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner. Just two years later, “First Date” is now traveling to be adapted throughout the nation with its start in Coral Gables.

Director David Arisco and musical director Manny Schvartzman pair Aaron (Clay Cartland), a successful financial worker, and Casey (Erica Lustig), an edgy serial-dater, for a blind date with more entertaining twists and turns than you would expect.

The couple meets at a restaurant in New York City with other customers, a bartender-waiter and various other people who become exes, friends and relatives (in Aaron’s and Casey’s imagination) and offer amusing commentary throughout their date.

With a cast of less than 10 people, “First Date” exceptionally showcases the versatility of its ensemble. Each actor plays multiple parts, such as Conor Walton as Casey’s flamboyant gay friend and future son; Jessica Booth as Aaron’s typical ex-girlfriends; Nick Duckart as Aaron’s friend and wingman; Laura Hodos as Casey’s sister, Aaron’s late mom and grandmother; and Roland Rusinek as the restaurant’s cheeky bartender-waiter, therapist and Casey’s father.

Overall, the cast steals the show and makes this otherwise cliché theme worthwhile. The set is simple and not as over-the-top as the music. Both lead actors have character-defining moments where their obvious chemistry still stands out despite their character’s fate of being an odd couple. Casey’s solo in “Safer” depicts her angst, whereas Aaron’s duet with Hodos on “The Things I Never Said” is one of the show’s standout vocal moments.

The regional premiere of “First Date” is fun and entertaining. It is recommended for singles and those who used to be, who enjoy musical comedies. If not for any other reason, go for the cast.

  • What: “First Date” by Austin Winsberg, Alan Zachary, Michael Weiner.
  • Where: Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables.
  • When: Through April 12: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays.
  • Cost: $59 Friday-Saturday, $52 other performances (10 percent senior discount, $15 student rush, excludes Saturdays-Sundays).
  • http://www.actorsplayhouse.org