Review Roundup: FIRST DATE Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
Zachary Levi makes his Broadway debut starring opposite Broadway and television ingénue Krysta Rodriguez in First Date, opening tonight, August 8, at the Longacre Theatre.
Featuring Sara Chase, Kristoffer Cusick, Blake Hammond, and Kate Loprest, the cast of First Date also includes Vicki Noon.
With a book by Austin Winsberg, music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner and musical staging by Josh Rhodes, First Date is directed by 5th Avenue Theatre's Bill Berry.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Zachary Levi is adorably nervous and quirky as finance guy Aaron...Krysta Rodriguez's Casey is the kind of sardonically sexy indie/arty type that intimidates the hell out of Aaron. But if their romantic chemistry seems lacking, their comedic chemistry crackles incessantly via Rodriguez's deadpan reactions to Levi's hilarious lack of game...Staged with wacky buoyancy by director Bill Berry, this is the kind of musical that'll have you remembering the funny moments more than the melodies, but if it's true what they say about a sense of humor being the most attractive quality in a mate, First Date offers up a terrific match.
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: Does any of the following sound familiar? An instant lack of rapport; a growing aversion as the minutes pass; a mysterious sense that time has suddenly stopped; a desperate hope that the apocalypse will arrive, preferably right this minute. Magnify those feelings, set them to bland pop-rock music, and you'll have some idea of the oodles of fun I didn't have during my evening at "First Date," the singing sitcom that opened on Thursday night at the Longacre Theater...I have been harsh on this modest musical, efficiently if facelessly directed by Bill Berry, so I should underscore that Mr. Levi and Ms. Rodriguez are both appealing performers. Although his singing is merely adequate, Mr. Levi brings a vitality and off-kilter humor to his performance...Ms. Rodriguez has the drearier role - it's obvious that the show was written by three guys, since only the female characters are accessorized with flaws - but her singing is ardent and assured.
Jennifer Farrar, Associated Press: The book by "Gossip Girl" writer Austin Winsberg provides the couple with plenty of flippant repartee. A madcap mashup of musical styles and lyrics blazing with one-liners are provided by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner. Director Bill Berry keeps a steady pace amid the dynamic musical staging by Josh Rhodes. Making his Broadway debut, Levi has a strong leading-man presence, smooth in his dance moves while handling Aaron's nervous gaffes with comedic flair...Rodriguez is polished and cool, gradually showing underlying vulnerability as Casey unbends a little..."Something That Will Last" is Casey and Aaron's final duet, about the uncertainties of falling in love. Never mind love, will they even make it to a second date? The point is that after just 90 minutes with this mismatched couple and their comical parade of demanding advisers, we still care how it turns out.
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: It's not surprising to read in the Playbill for Broadway's First Date that book writer Austin Winsberg has extensive television credits, including Gossip Girl and Jake in Progress. This romantic musical comedy -- first seen in a co-production by Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre and A Contemporary Theater -- has a definite sitcom-like quality. But it also displays a genuine wit and musical flair that marks a refreshing change from the onslaught of overblown musicals permeating Broadway these days. Starring Zachary Levi of TV's Chuck in his Broadway debut and Krysta Rodriguez (The AddamsFamily, Smash), this modest, unassuming tuner is a definite crowd-pleaser, although it may find itself struggling for tourist dollars when the bigger shows arrive in the fall.
Linda Winer, Newsday: There is no credible reason for these people to belong together, except that author Austin Winsberg and composer-lyricists Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner put them into their well- staged, musically-generic little pop show...Rodriguez has a pingy, lively voice. So does Levi, though first he has to drag out a shameless dead mother story and he doesn't get an edgy song until about 85 minutes into the 90-minute show. Director Bill Berry contributes most of the brightest ideas with a throwaway glance here and a well-timed visual surprise there. The audience at Friday's preview appeared to be having a great time. But, really, if matchmaking is this forced and random, no wonder so many marriages don't last.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: "First Date," a romantic musical comedy about the horrors, humiliations and occasional happy surprises of blind dates, is cute (but not too cute) and sweet (but not too sweet). So, indications are that this appealing show will do well (but not too well) on Gotham's Main Stem, despite having come out of nowhere and been assembled by no one you've heard of. Creative team of Austin Winsberg (book) and collaborators Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner (music and lyrics) should thank their lucky stars for Krysta Rodriguez and Zachary Levi, who are seriously charming as mismatched blind daters destined to become lovers.
Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: "First Date," a small-cast, small-scale musical (seven actors, one set, 95 minutes, no intermission) that tells the story of a blind date from start to finish, feels at times as though it had been knocked together out of spare parts...This isn't to say that "First Date" is bad. Truth to tell, it's pleasantly fluffy and not without charm, and were it playing in an off-Broadway house, it'd have a better chance of finding its natural audience, which I take to be hopeful millennials who bear the unhealed scars of the online dating wars...It helps, too, that Mr. Levi, a second-tier television star ("Chuck") who is making his Broadway debut, turns out to be a strikingly adept stage comedian who knows how to put the right spin on a good joke, while Ms. Rodriguez is a spunky sasspot with grade-A pipes.
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: Levi is particularly winsome and adorable as Aaron..His singing voice, like his character, is engaging but a little thin...Here, [Rodriguez] projects an admirable magnetism as a brusque, red-meat-eating downtown chick...While director Bill Berry keeps the story zipping along, he's hobbled by a bland score (by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner) that leans too heavily on pastiche as well as a paint-by-numbers book (by Austin Winsberg) that strings together a series of overly broad clichés rather than flesh out truly distinctive characters...But there's a certain crackle to the performances by Levi and Rodriguez, a kinetic in-the-momentness, that elevates the material. Though your head may tell you to cut short this First Date, you find yourself rooting for this unlikely couple (and the show) to succeed. C+
David Cote, Time Out NY: Despite a little overeagerness, First Date isn't a bad night out (provided you don't expect deep engagement). If ever there were the platonic ideal of a Broadway summer engagement, this is it: no serious competition, low expectations, emerging talent. There is skill on display in Austin Winsberg's anything-for-a-laugh book and the inoffensive light-rock score by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner...Bill Berry's jaunty staging keeps the laughs coming, and both leads have charm and vocal chops. Not every hookup has to be forever; First Date aims its love arrow for the middle and hits it with aplomb.
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: Austin Winsberg's slapstick book makes hash of every dating cliche we've heard...The breezy if plain score is by young composers Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, who've written for Disney...[Levi's] got pipes, and "First Date" is a nice vehicle for the lanky actor, who mugs his way through a handshake-turned-awkward-fistbump, and other well-done comedic moments. Rodriguez is compelling and believable as the wounded, sometimes claw-bearing serial dater who hasn't quite given up on love..."First Date" doesn't boast the most memorable score or original story, but you'll still walk out feeling as if you've gotten lucky. That's thanks to the charismatic stars, who display a comfort and ease with their fictional counterparts that you usually only see in couples married 20 years.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: The simultaneously dimwitted and hyperactive brainchild of TV scribe Austin Winsberg (Gossip Girl, Jake in Progress) and songwriters Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, First Date follows Aaron (Zachary Levi) and a gal, Casey (Krysta Rodriguez), as they meet over drinks and dinner. During an encounter that lasts, mercifully, only 95 minutes...And suffice to say that no cliché is left unturned...Levi nonetheless manages to make Aaron likable enough, just as Rodriguez gives Casey an authentic, appealing tartness. And being a romantic comedy, of course, First Date ends on a hopeful note.
Matt Windman, AM New York: "First Date" - a new Broadway musical about, you guessed it, a first date - is just as generic, pedestrian, bare and altogether uninteresting as the title implies that it will be...To extend what could have been a 10-minute skit into 90 minutes, the date is constantly interrupted by a flamboyant waiter (Blake Hammond) and voices in the characters' heads representing their friends, family and ex boyfriend/girlfriend...The songs, co-written by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, are tuneful enough to show that the team has promise. On the other hand, Austin Winsberg's sitcom-style dialogue lands few laughs. Levi...is sincere, but overplays the geekiness, while Rodriguez...manages to add signs of character depth. Too bad Levi and Rodriguez couldn't have just done a production of "The Last Five Years" instead.
Scott Brown, Vulture: The songs (by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, of the upcoming Secondhand Lions) are pleasant, often energetic Broadpop bonbons with better-than-average lyrics, but apart from Gay Bestie's oft-repeated "Bailout Song" (performed with flair by Kristoffer Cusick), they won't haunt your dreams or even your cab ride home. They do have a balls-out confidence when it comes to avoiding daintiness, and there's wit, warmth, and charm in sufficient abundance to keep us engaged for 90 minutes...The creative team's real achievement begins and ends with casting. It isn't so much that Levi and Rodriguez exceed the rather restricted types they're playing; it's how they keep making us forget that they're playing types. In those moments, you're watching chemistry, not math, and the show's inherent agreeableness and take-me-I'm-yours-I'll-do cuteness come oozing through.
Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: Let's just say it: The mating-game musical "First Date" isn't first-rate. Third-tier is more like it. Or below-deck, since this singing catalogue of cliches by a team of Broadway rookies would fit better on a cruise ship than the Great White Way...The songs are peppy but generic. The script boasts a couple of laughs...But that's a bright spot amid buzzkill...[Berry's] strategy: Throw in lots of tricks to see what sticks - megaphones, a leaf blower and talking video screens...Despite such clunkers, Rodgriguez cuts a strong presence. She has a pretty, but not especially colorful, voice. Levi, who sang in the cartoon "Tangled," is a pleasant enough singer and does the required geeky self-deprecation very well. All fine, but not enough to recommend the show.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: But the show really rests on Levi's shoulders - and he carries it effortlessly. The only clue we had that he could carry a tune was from his duet with Mandy Moore in Disney's "Tangled." Here, he turns out to be able to do far more than just sing a song: He can sell it. His 11 o'clock number, "In Love With You," is a tour de force of comic timing, physical clowning and effective interpretation.
Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: Levi (TV's "Chuck") and Rodriguez (TV's "Smash") both sing well, and establish a very winning rapport. It would have been nice to get to know Aaron and Casey in more tranquil circumstances.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: As in Simon and Marvin Hamlisch's "They're Playing Our Song," Aaron's and Casey's friends keep popping out of the furniture to give them foolish advice, which they mostly ignore. Casey's best friend (gay, of course) keeps phoning for an update, and boy is he frustrated when she doesn't pick up. "First Date" is harmless and instantly forgettable.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus