By Beki Pineda
FIRST DATE – Music and Lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner; Book by Austin Winsberg; Directed by Ray Roderick. Produced by Denver Center for the Performing Arts Cabaret (performed at the Garner Galleria Theater, 15th and Curtis, Denver) through April 22nd, 2018. Tickets available through 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org.
What happens when three theatre nerds get together and talk about their failed love lives? An intimate musical called FIRST DATE. FIRST DATE pairs a nice guy, who just wants to meet a nice girl, with a girl jaded and closed off by “bad boy” relationships who both got talked into one more blind date. I’m happy to report that the three theatre nerds are all now happily married themselves.
Aaron and Casey meeting in a bar for a first date can’t help but be a little excited because s/he could be “The One”. As the evening progresses, however, the audience develops a little insight into what makes the date so difficult for both of them. In one word, it’s called “baggage”. Casey is haunted by her love of bad boys she’s known before who have mistreated and left her, only to come back in her fantasies. They reappear now and remind her that she “Can’t Help But Love Me”. She finally realizes that she wants something “Safer”.
Aaron also had a destructive relationship with an oversexed woman named Allison who left him at the altar but still regularly shows up in his dreams. His mother also periodically returns from the other side to advise him that “she’s not the girl for you”, (mostly because she’s not Jewish). In a beautiful song that doesn’t quite fit with the theme of the production (but please leave it in), Aaron and his mother have a duet that laments “The Things I Never Said” before she passed away when he was a boy. But Aaron’s feelings for his mother convince Casey that he’s the real thing.
Casey has a gay friend Reggie who makes bail-out phone calls to her throughout the evening to give her an excuse to leave the date if it’s not going well. When she doesn’t pick up on his calls, he panics and is convinced she’s lying in a ditch somewhere. The bartender/waiter advises his customers that “I’d Order Love”. Both Casey and Aaron admit that they had Googled each other before the date and lament the bad pictures that live on the internet (“The World Wide Web is Forever”).
But because this is a musical comedy – and a good one – the evening ends with Aaron ridding himself forever of his memories of Allison (in a comic catharsis called “In Love With You” – not!), Casey realizing that there is something to be said for the good guys, Reggie and the Waiter walking off into the sunset, and everyone ready to make “Something That Will Last”.
The show is usually done with a cast of seven, but because the talent in Denver is so strong and versatile, Director Roderick knew that he could do it with five. Adriane Leigh Robinson, whom you may have seen as Sally Bowes in Miners Alley’s recent production of CABARET plays the sweet but suspicious Casey. Seth Dhonau, who has appeared locally in Cherry Creek Theatre’s production of RED, HOT AND COLE alongside fellow cast mate Lauren Shealy, plays the openhearted Aaron. Playing the other womens parts, Lauren Shealy returns to the Galleria after having performed in three previous shows including the long-running LOVE/PERFECT. Local favorites Steven J. Burge and Jordan Leigh both also return to the Galleria after starring in previous productions. Director Roderick also knew that he didn’t have to cast this show in New York and bring actors to Denver with him. His previous experience with Denver theatre informed his choice to use local actors.
Whether you are on a first date yourself or a date night with your spouse, you’ll relate to this couple and the problems they face in making a love connection. Lighthearted fun and sweet music make this a perfect way to spend a couple of hours.
A WOW factor of 8.5!