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Review: FIRST DATE Brings High-Energy Musical Comedy to OnStage Playhouse

Review: FIRST DATE Brings High-Energy Musical Comedy to OnStage Playhouse

The show is playing through November 6th.

What is funny, charming, and will make you laugh? The musical FIRST DATE now playing at OnStage Playhouse through November 6th.

True to its name, the musical follows a blind date, for Aaron (Benjamin Monts) and Casey (understudy Kylie Young who was covering for Adelaida Martinez ), and all of the nerves, expectations, and surprises that can potentially happen during a first date.

Aaron is looking for love, while Casey is commitment-phobic and though they were set up by friends and family, the date seems full of potential potholes on the road to love. Luckily, with the help of a musically inclined and well-meaning waiter and a cast of other zany characters, this couple's first-date journey is fun to watch.

Review: FIRST DATE Brings High-Energy Musical Comedy to OnStage Playhouse
Jaden Guerrero, Shelby Beltran, & Enrique Arana

Along with Aaron and Casey, the show is populated by a supporting cast including Enrique Arana, Shelby Beltran, Emily Candia, Jaden Guerrero, Andrew Gutierrez, they all play a variety of pivotal characters, as well as a Greek chorus as the date moves along.

This one act has a contemporary soft rock score, which runs from funny to vulnerable, and back again at a dizzying pace. The show opens with the customers at the bar, who recount the difficulty of modern dating, blind dates.

Aaron is the nice guy with a past that has left him hesitant and Monts makes him witty and awkwardly charming, which later leads to a funny and fiery cathartic moment about his ex-girlfriend. Young as Casey is wry and tough - a girl that hides her gooey emotional center behind strong drinks and a penchant for bad boys.

Is this the broadway musical version of nerd guy meets quirky and tough pixie dream girl? Yes, but Monts and Young play off each other in a way that was fun to watch and makes the audience wonder if their initial reactions to each other are signs they are not a good match or the first sparks of the couple's chemistry.

Quickly potential obstacles arise, as the rest of the cast takes the forms of exes, family members, and friends who appear throughout the night to give advice, pester, and sabotage Aaron and Casey.

Review: FIRST DATE Brings High-Energy Musical Comedy to OnStage Playhouse
Enrique Arana & Andrew Gutierrez

Arana is excellent as a waiter who is looking for love, while Gutierrez is very funny as Reggie, Casey's gay best friend who calls her for potential bailout opportunities. Candia is a good foil as Casey's happily married advice-giving sister, while Guerrero is entertaining as Aaron's womanizing best friend. Beltran is amusing as a perfect memory of an imperfect person, Aaron's ex, Allison.

Scenic design by Reiko Huffman creates a great bar and restaurant and is scaled to work well with the intimate performance space, and is complimented by the sound and video design by Estefania Ricalde, and the costumes by Brad Dubois.

Kevin "Blax" Burroughs is a triple threat for this musical as the director, choreographer, and lighting designer. The pacing of the show is high energy and fun, while the choreography is clever and utilizes the stage well. The lighting compliments the set design and is especially strong during the ensemble numbers. San Diego theatre this year has greatly benefited from the multi-talented Burroughs who has had credits as a performer (MEMPHIS, THE WIZ), lighting designer ( BLUE PERIOD), choreographer (25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE), and directing (SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD) in addition to FIRST DATE.

Like any date, the show does hit some snags - most notably with some dialogue about "friend-zoning" that feels a bit like a misogynistic tantrum and undercuts some of the sensitivity Monts has instilled in the character up to that point. There were also some volume/microphone issues in a few places for some characters, but that's just part of the fun of live theater.

FIRST DATE is a fun night out at the theatre whether you come alone, on a date, or with a group of friends.

How To Get Tickets

FIRST DATE is playing at OnStage Playhouse through November 6th. For ticket and show time information please go to https://www.onstageplayhouse.org/

Photo Credit: Benjamin Monts, Andrew Gutierrez, Kylie Young, & Shelby Beltra. Photo by Daren Scott.


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