First dates, especially in the age of the internet, can be a nerve-wracking experience. What will the other person be like? What if I say something stupid? Should I google them beforehand? What will they find if they google me? What is the best way to set up a “safe call” in case things are going badly? Who really should pick up the check? Other Voices Theatre’s Valentine’s season production of “First Date: A Musical Comedy,” directed by Susan Thornton, helps modern daters examine and laugh at our dating anxieties in an age of ubiquitous internet information and uncertain social and gender norms.
Written by Austin Winsberg with music by Alan Zachary and Michal Weiner, the show’s story revolves around a blind date between Casey and Aaron. Aaron is financially successful but nerdy, nervous, and Jewish. Casey is brash, outspoken, artistic, and…not Jewish. When the show begins, Aaron and Casey tend to see each other, and sometimes themselves, largely in terms of stereotypes and also how well they meet (or violate) the expectations of friends and family.
As the story progresses, however, they come to appreciate each other more as individuals, perhaps romantically attractive individuals, even if they do not fit into each other’s initial notions of who their “correct” matches should be. Each also begins to overcome nostalgia for prior partners who may have been fun to be around for short periods, but who may not have actually had Casey or Aaron’s best interests at heart.
First Date is a well-performed, very funny, and immensely enjoyable show…
Katherine Worley and Nicholas Cox are fabulous as Casey and Aaron: they imbue their characters and interactions between characters with believability, even when placed in circumstances that approach the farcical. They also sing well together, especially their duet “First Impressions.” Another noteworthy song is “Safer,” where Worley is able to convey through the bell-like clarity of her singing voice that there is more to her character than a tough cookie with a penchant for comically bad relationship choices.
The rest of the small five-person ensemble are very good as well. Music Director Jonas Dawson appears to have done an excellent job in selecting talented singers with well-matched voices. At times the ensemble sing group songs, such as the very funny “The World Wind Web Is Forever,” “The Check!”, and “[She’s Not] The Girl for You,” the latter number being perhaps slightly reminiscent of “Tevye’s Dream” in “Fiddler on the Roof” while also being gleefully politically incorrect. At other times the members portray, sometimes in song and sometimes in prose, a variety of other briefly-seen but important characters, such as Aaron’s ex-girlfriend Allison (played by Tori Weaver), Aarons’s deceased mother (Taylor Knapp), Casey’s sister Lauren (Taylor Knapp again), Casey’s therapist (Stacy Carroll), and Casey’s overly-emotional safe-calling friend Reggie (Thomas Bricker).
The show’s music is performed live, by Jonas Dawson on keyboard, John Maestri on percussion, and Natalie Spehar on cello. The music and sound were generally well done; both spoken words and the witty song lyrics are understandable. The lighting design is also very effective, helping the audience to know where to focus its attention.
“First Date” was first staged in Seattle in 2012, then enjoyed a run on Broadway in 2013. Given the play’s New York City setting, its Jewish male protagonist, and its generally comedic take on romantic relationships, one might expect the musical to have a Seinfeld quality to it. While the cast as a whole does exhibit an excellent sense of comic timing and irony, the show has some serious and touching moments as well. Similarly, while the characters have a variety of quirks and flaws, the show is structured in such a way that in the end, we laugh with them, not at them.
“First Date” is closing soon—the final show will be the 2 pm matinee on February 17, with the theatre reporting that the final shows are nearly sold out. Happily, this is about the only regrettable thing that can be said about the show. “First Date” is a well-performed, very funny, and immensely enjoyable show, one which both this reviewer and the rest of the audience loved!
Running Time: About 2 hours, including one intermission.
Advisory: The show is not recommended for persons under the age of 16 due to strong language and mature content.
“First Date: A Musical Comedy” runs through February 17, 2019, at Other Voices Theatre, located at the Performing Arts Factory, 244B South Jefferson Street, Frederick, Maryland 21701. For more information click here.