Last night, I got to see the first preview performance of Broadway’s latest musical comedy – First Date.
I knew the gist of the show before going (it was a “real time” first date between Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez’s characters), but had no idea what kind of music or characters I was going to be exposed to.
As someone who usually does not seek out a rom-com, I was pleasantly surprised with the musical and I very much enjoyed First Date.
The basic plot is such – Aaron (Levi) is an open-book straight-laced, young Jewish businessman who is set up on a blind date with Casey (Rodriguez), who is an edgy, standoffish, young atheist that works in an art gallery. Opposites butt heads like feuding bulls before they start to attract and the audience is well aware of their connection before they are. We watch them take hugely wrong turns in conversation, ask inappropriate questions, put up walls and change perceptions. It’s an eye-opening 90 minutes of blatant stereotypes, high points of both comedy and drama, and self-reflection.
There are seven characters in the show (our blind date couple, an older gay waiter, and two heterosexual couples who serve as a host of other characters during inner monologue-based music numbers) and everyone did a great job. Though the stereotypes were laid on thick (revolving around the Jewish faith, Christianity and gay culture), they served a purpose of allowing the audience to immediately jump to certain conclusions about characters’ relationships without having to mess about with deeper passages. The date couldn’t drag, so obvious (albeit sometimes a bit forced) references were necessary to keep the pace.
My biggest concern going into the show was the music. Because this is a brand spankin’ new musical, I had no prior knowledge of any of the songs. My fear was that I wasn’t going to be able to hear/understand what they were singing (especially group numbers with overlapping lyrics) or that the songs were going to be boring or cliché. I am pleased to say that my fears were alleviated right away. From my sixth row seat, I could understand everyone just fine (I have a bit of a hearing problem on a whole, so I spent a lot of time watching the actors’ mouths so as to better understand what they were singing) and the songs were actually pretty catchy. This is a soundtrack I would gladly listen to (if only to pretend that I sang as well as Rodriguez… damn, that girl is talented).
The biggest surprise for me, though, was Zachary Levi. Having never seen anything he’s been in, I didn’t know how well he was going to come across vocally when put next to Rodriguez (I saw her in The Addams Family… “Pulled” is my go-to shower song, folks). I also didn’t know if he could command the stage.
I am entirely okay with admitting when I am wrong – Zachary Levi was great. (And I’m not just saying this because I had a super fun stagedoor experience with him, which I will talk about later…)
As Aaron, Levi came across as nervous, spiteful, kind and heartbreakingly honest throughout different moments of the play. At one point he’s singing about/to an ex-girlfriend and he shimmied his way across the stage and onto furniture – dancing until my smiles hurt. At another point, he tells Casey about a letter his mom wrote to him and it showed a very vulnerable side to his character.
But, as impressed as I was with Levi, I will forever tip my hat to Rodriguez. Though her character is the standard “chick with issues who uses deflection to keep her heart guarded,” the arc is fulfilling and you want to root for her after she belts out this gorgeous ballad called “Safer.” It takes place during a therapy session and I almost looked around anxiously wondering how on earth the lyricists hacked into my brain and wrote out in song all the insecure feelings I try to keep trapped up there. Dang – way to make me feel incredibly exposed during a musical comedy, First Date.
Though there were obvious little issues (some of the blocking was kinda Meh and parts of the plot was almost too cliché), there was even more to like about the show. Great cast, catchy songs, relatable plot… it was a very enjoyable show that was just really fun to watch. This show isn’t meant to make you think about super deep issues like world peace or curing cancer, but it was a great show to smile and laugh heartily surrounding a few spots of reflection and realization. We laugh at their mistakes because we’ve made them too. We nod our heads at their issues because they are our own. And we can’t help but smile when things go really right because it gives us hope that that could be us.
First Date is in previews until it officially opens in early August and is playing at the Longacre Theatre on 48th Street (between Broadway and 8th Ave).
(Okay – so, stagedoor. All the actors came out and seemed genuinely surprised that there were that many people waiting at the barricades. Everyone signed and posed for pictures. When Zachary and Krysta came out, everyone cheered. Zachary announced that Krysta was on vocal rest, so she didn’t really talk to anyone, though she did smile and nod her head a lot. I took pictures of my friend with the various actors and I got a picture with Krysta and then one with Zachary.
Zachary Levi was a joy to watch at the stagedoor. He was smiling from the moment he stepped outside and just kept talking to everyone. He signed Playbills and had conversations with people, taking pictures and offering to take the pictures of him and whoever he was interacting with at the moment.
Since he was being so chatty, I decided to talk to him when he got over to my friend and me. I told him I knew who he was, but that I had never seen anything he was in, but that I was glad that the first thing I saw him in was his Broadway debut. He said he was glad about that too and then said that the situation was like our first date together… and then he rambled how he was going to come to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving and some other stuff. He was super sweet and extremely friendly. Our picture came out blurry, so a minute later, I tapped him on the arm and told him our first date picture didn’t turn out well and we took a second one. Then my friend and I vacated our prime spot at the front of the barrier to squeal with delight out of eye/earshot. We have since decided that not only is Zachary Levi one of the most adorable people on the face of the planet – his costume during the show was soooooo cute… glasses, folks… he wears glasses – but he’s also one of the nicest and most personable actors we’ve ever encountered. I need to watch Chuck now, obviously.
The whole night was super fun and I highly recommend the show and then stagedooring afterward. I don’t know if he will be quite so talkative each time, but it was even just fun watching him smile and bounce around while he was signing stuff. He was just so happy – which is exactly what you should be when working on Broadway.)