BWW Review: Audiences Won't Need a 'Bailout' from FIRST DATE at The Abbey
You know what they say, the show must go on! The same can be said of Generation Productions' latest show, FIRST DATE, which opened at The Abbey in Downtown Orlando last week shortly after the visit from Hurricane Irma. Fortunately, this part of town seemed to be free of damage compared to the rest of Orlando, and the show went on without a hitch!
For those who don't remember, FIRST DATE was on Broadway back in 2013 for a short time starring Zachary Levi, who was making his Broadway debut, and Krysta Rodriguez. The show centers around Aaron and Casey who are set up on a blind date by Casey's sister and brother-in-law, who works with Aaron. Throughout the show we meet the imaginary voices inside their heads who are coaching and interfering with the date, including exes, protective parents and more. Nothing like the voices inside your head coming to life in song and dance to make a blind date even more awkward, right?
As a person who is awkward in about 90% of the social situations I'm put through, this is a very relatable show, performed in the perfect setting. Producer Aaron Safer and Generation Productions' director Kenny Howard chose to put the audience in the middle of the action, placed in surrounding tables with Aaron and Casey in the middle of the "restaurant," giving the audience the vibe of listening in on their conversation. And depending on which table you're at, you, or the person next to you, may become part of the action. Combined with set by Daniel Cooksley, lighting design by Corey Wissig, and choreography by Theresa Hanson, this take on First Date works well, especially in such a small space.
All of the performers are brilliant in their respective roles. Michael Knight brought a sweet awkwardness to the role of Aaron, who made the audience appreciate Aaron's quirks, including his love for his ex-fiance, willingness to be so open on a first date, and momentary freak out of almost being placed in the horrid friend-zone by Casey. Kellie Rhianne was a sultry, charming Casey, who starts out as a misunderstood girl with walls up higher than the building itself, but slowly brings those walls down and lets the audience, and Aaron, in on why she is the way she is. Her performance of "Safer" was one of my favorites of the entire evening.
Rounding out the cast is Molly Schoolmeester as Lauren/Others, Jerry Jobe Jr. as Gabe/Others, Alexandria Grace Williams as Allison/Others, Blake Auburn as Reggie/Others, Jason Blackwater as Waiter/Others, and Theresa Hanson, Jose Navarro, and Chelsea Hupalowsky as the immersive ensemble.
In addition to the leads, the standout had to be Auburn as Reggie, who had the audience uncontrollably laughing during his "Bailout Song" performances. This show and cast is one you don't want to miss.
First Date continues to play at the Abbey through September 30. For tickets visit bit.ly/FirstDateAbbey.