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San Diego Musical Theatre’s “First Date”

By   /  April 13, 2017  /  No Comments

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A Fast Paced, Witty Look at the Dating Scene

TR Robertson

TR Robertson…Remember the first blind date you ever had? Remember the awkward tension, the attempts at humor or just trying to find something in common with your date? Remember searching for how to get out of the date if things weren’t going well? If any of this sounds vaguely familiar, you will thoroughly enjoy the latest presentation at the Horton Grand Theatre, presented by the San Diego Musical Theatre. “First Date” is a fast paced, hilarious, witty look at the current dating scene and all of the pitfalls and problems that surround looking for that special someone.

“First Date” is taken from a book by Austin Winsberg with music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner. Weiner has said a lot of what is seen on stage is inspired by personal experiences. The musical had its world premiere in 2012 at Seattle’s ACT Theatre and the Broadway debut in 2013 at Longacre Theatre in New York City. The SDMT presentation is under the direction of J. Scott Lapp. Mr. Lapp has directed and worked as an associate director for numerous local and major regional theatre companies. Assisting Lapp in the production are Set Designer Stephen Gifford, Lighting Designer AJ Paulin, Costume Designer Janet Pitcher, Choreographer Allison Spratt Pearce, Sound Designer Kevin Anthinell and Musical Director Jon Lorenz.

“First Date” opens with “The One”, as bar patrons sing about their dating disasters. The musicals story line follows a blind date Aaron, played by Joshua David Cavanaugh, is on as he enters a bar/restaurant in New York City to meet up with Casey, played by Cassandra Nuss. Both actors are making their SDMT debut. Aaron is a tense, high strung, money driven businessman who is coming off a break-up and Casey is an “artsy”, self-described serial dater. This a perfect storm for a blind date that could end in disaster. They have been set-up on this date by Casey’s sister, Lauren, whose husband, Kevin, is a co-worker with Aaron.  Aaron first meets the waiter, played by John Massey, a SDMT vet who last appeared to great acclaim as Max Bialystock in “The Producers”. As Casey enters, her first glimpse of her blind date is Aaron putting in eye drops. She begins the evening with two strong drinks.

First impressions are always important in the dating world and Casey and Aaron sing, “First Impressions”, as they describe how they view one another. It’s here we meet Reggie, Casey’s gay BFF, who has been put in charge of her bailout phone call. Reggie is hilariously played by Jon Sangster, returning to SDMT. He will also play Aaron’s future son in a dream scene, an Instagram and a bad boy rocker guy. Reggie sings “Bailout Song #1” as he tries to call Casey to give her the bailout of the date message. He will do this two more times, each time unleashing a funnier phone call.

One clever number in the musical is brought on when Aaron makes the mistake of discussing religion on the first date. He is Jewish and discovers Casey is not Jewish, possibly Catholic, but by her admission an atheist. In a dream scene, Aaron’s dead Jewish Grandma Ida appears, played by SDMT vet Lauren King Thompson, and scolds him for not dating a nice Jewish girl and Casey’s father appears, played by the waiter, and he informs Aaron he would not like him for a son-in-law. All of the cast members join in the catchy number, “The Girl for You” along with a clever dance routine.

Casey and Aaron manage to make a number of awkward statements as they try to find some common ground. “The Awkward Pause” provides a list if things they would rather be doing than be sitting where they are now. One ah-ha moment comes when Casey tells something very personal about herself, but Aaron quickly finds out this is just another awkward attempt to break the tension. Along the way, different people in the bar, as Casey’s sister or Aaron’s friend, offer advice to the couple. Lauren King Thompson plays her sister Lauren and Zachary Scott Wolfe plays Aaron’s dating coach Gabe. Some of the advice comes out as dating rules. Rules such as; Don’t discuss other men with the man you are dating or Never bring up an ex on a 1st date (“Talk about the ex, forget about the sex”). This is followed by Casey dealing with her tendency to date “Bad Boys”, helped by Zackary Scot Wolfe and Jonathan Sangster as her former bad boy, boy-friends.

The musical touches on one of the pitfalls many people succumb to today, especially in dealing with the formerly referred to world-wide-web. Singing, “The world-wide-web is forever”, some of the older dating sites are listed.   “You have everything to fear, you can’t erase it, and you can’t suppress it”. Aaron and Casey discuss their Google profiles and Casey finds out Aaron performed in his high school musical, at an all-boys school, as Dolly in “Hello Dolly”. Aaron is quick to point out that he received an “oddly compelling” review. They begin to understand if you find out too much about a person before you meet them it takes all of the fun out of meeting someone and may give you the wrong impression about an individual.

A tender song from the musical, sung by Cassandra Nuss, “Safer”, as Casey, deals with her fear of commitment and making bad choices in her life. This will blend into the waiter, John Massey, trying to smooth things out with the couple. From here, Aaron begins to remember his former love, Allison, played by Lindsay Joan. Joan won a Craig Noel Award for her performance as Natalie in “Next to Normal”. Gabe attempts to remind him about what Allison actually did to him in “Allison’s Theme”.  Along the way, Aaron lands in the friend zone, he begins to realize he never had closure with Allison and as fate would have it, Casey begins to have feelings for Aaron. Will an edgy and creative girl find compatibility with a structured and somewhat stable man? See the musical and find out.

The cast handles a number of roles with ease, providing many funny moments as they move around the multi-leveled set. The musical provides a thoughtful look at the ever-changing dating scene and will bring back many memories of good and bad dates people have experienced. “First Date” will be at the Horton Grand Theatre until May 7th. Horton Grand Theatre is located at 444 Fourth Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter. Tickets are available at 858-560-5740 or go to www.sdmt.org.

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