Monday, August 19, 2013

Review of "First Date"

First Date, the new 90 minute, intermission-less Broadway musical, has a simple premise—what could possibly go right but, more often then not, what could go wrong with that initial meeting?  The show, at first, is quite funny even though it mines typical first date embarrassing and mortifying moments for quick laughs.  However, as the musical, the first book show of the new Broadway season, progresses the production becomes more like a bad, real-life first date—when will it end?

We are introduced to Aaron, uptight and painfully uncomfortable; and Casey, cool, calm, and collected with a decidedly downtown aura.  The mismatched duo, played winningly by Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez, painfully portray the missteps and blunders associated with these virgin rendezvous.  Unfortunately, the laughs and awkward situations, enlivened by a four-person ensemble playing a number of different roles, cannot be sustained for a full hour and one-half.  The show veers into serious, semi-confessional tones that put a damper on the would-be couple’s potentially blooming relationship as well as the production itself. 

Zachary Levi, making his Broadway debut, has a solid stage presence, great comic timing, and a good theatrical singing voice.  It would be interesting to see what he could do with a more substantial role.  Krysta Rodriguez, more edgier, exuding both self-confidence as well as a certain vulnerability, is the Ying to Levi’s Yang.  Or maybe the oil to his vinegar.  While both performers do their best with the material written for them the interactions, most of the time, seemed forced rather than natural.

The book by Austin Winsberg has its moments, but the scenes, while springing from personal experiences, lacks a cohesive and consistent view, which ultimately provides an unfulfilling storyline.  I also wish Winsberg would have trusted his plotline and ended the show with more subtlety instead of the “big” finale.  The same could be said for the score by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner.  The songs, peppy with the occasional ballad, are serviceable without much wit and creativity. 

Director Bill Berry is somewhat stymied by the set-up—two people mostly sitting in a bar trying to make small talk.  The action is broken up, primarily, by the supporting cast, nondescript patrons of the bar, who come to life singing and donning various guises throughout the show.  Otherwise, Berry pushes along the production without much shape and character.

First Date, not the worst initial encounter with a Broadway musical, but certainly not the best.

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