BWW Reviews: Opposites Attract in FIRST DATE
BWW Reviews: OPPOSITES ATTRACT in "FIRST DATE"
Written by Austin Winsberg
Direction and Choreography by Lee Wilkins
Musical Direction by Robert Jarosh
February, 24, 2015 at 7:30 P.M.
If your 20 or 30 something , this is the fun, quirky and kitschy show for you! And if you like profanity and sexual content, well then...you are in luck, because "FIRST DATE" has it all! The theatre was buzzing in anticipation for the Tuesday night performance of "FIRST DATE" at the Jaeb Theatre, Straz Center of Performing Arts in Tampa. It was encouraging to see a young adult theatre audience, amidst the "well-seasoned patrons in the crowded orchestra section of the Cabaret style venue.
The show started right on time with the blaring sounds of the band, drowning out the unheard voices of performers appearing in the audience and on stage. The sound issues were remedied quickly during the first scene, for the most part, although the production was plagued with the rapid pace of missed dialogue and lyrics, that had nothing to do with amplification. I am certain that this will iron itself out for the remainder of performances.
The story is based on the personal experiences of playwright Austin Winsberg. "FIRST DATE" made its world premiere at Seattle's ACT Theatre in a 5th Avenue Theatre co-production and made its Broadway debut August of 2013 at the Longacre Theatre in New York City. The story takes place in a trendy restaurant in New York City.
The action revolves around a complex and challenging blind date between an unlikely couple, the nerdy, newbie Aaron and his complete opposite, the tough, outspoken, dating veteran, Casey. They have nothing in common and of course it is a "bad" date with everything going wrong. As with many love stories, although the couple is clearly wrong for each other, they do indeed wind up together. Hearts and flowers etal. Nothing new there. The sassy yet appealing, Valerie Witherspoon, as Casey and the handsome, comedic, Michael Mahany as Aaron were perfectly cast as the mismatched couple. Both were honest in their character portrayals; as well as having good, strong, singing voices. This was a showcase for Mr. Mahany's exceptional comedic talents.
The five member singing and dancing "Greek chorus" of supporting actors, added a jolt of life and laughter throughout the production. The lovely Gabriella Mirabella as Casey's sister Lauren, was outstanding in her role, as well as having a beautifully trained soprano voice. Her natural acting skills shined as Lauren and her comedic talents were brought to an all time height as Aaron's Jewish Grandmother. Alice Rix plays Allison, Aaron's manipulative ex-fiancé, with the witchy attitude of the women you love to hate. And she nails the role. Michael Coale Grey is excellent in the several roles he plays, especially as Gabe, Aaron's best friend and life coach. Jonathan Van Dyke shines as the waiter, in a memorable performance. He is funny and wry and has impeccable diction. His solo "I'd Order Love", albeit randomly placed in the show, was a production highlight. Clearly an audience favorite, in the tour de force role of Reggie, is Robert Rice. Mr. Rice has it all, a triple threat as an actor, singer, and dancer and he pulls out all the stops and plays his role to the hilt!
The direction and choreography by Lee Wilkens was clever and exciting and the show was well paced. The band lead by Jason Hobert, was very good, although the tempos were very fast; which made it difficult to understand and decipher some of the lyrics. Scenic design, by Scott Cooper was realistic and expertly designed to avoid any sightline issues. The lighting design by Joseph Oshry, was clean and unobtrusive. Sound designer Greg Zane has some challenges, that will resolve with the repetition of doing the show, thus balancing the room. Costumes by Camille McClellan were right on target.
If you want to have a few laughs with a story that takes a contemporary look at dating in 2015, "FIRST DATE" is the new little musical for you! *
This production is intended for mature audiences Run-time: 90 minutes (without an intermission)
"FIRST DATE" - will play The Jaeb Theatre, through April 19th, 2015 at at the Straz Center, 1010 North W.C. MacInnes Place • Tampa, Florida 33602 Tickets: $40.00 and may be purchased by calling 813.229.STAR (7827) or 800.955.1045 outside Tampa Bay, or in person at the Straz Center Ticket Office or online http://www.strazcenter.org