First Date, onstage now at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre under the always-fun direction of Pete Comperatore, chronicles what happens when a rocking hot chick named Casey (Lauren Bamford) and a sweetly nerdy dude named Aaron (Sean McCracken) meet up for, of course, a first date.
This 90 minute breezer begins with a bang, and the fun doesn’t let up until the very end. Elizabeth Anderson choreographs cute moves to go along with the upbeat, honest music, and Austin Winsberg’s script, while feeling a bit dated at times, thrives thanks to engaging performances from the whole cast.
Bamford makes for a slinky and sexy Casey, a somewhat jaded, guarded young woman who has been on more than her fair share of first dates. Her energy plays nicely off of McCracken’s gentle, lovable, bumbling-in-all-the-right-places version of Aaron.
However, it’s not really just these two people that the script covers. Also present are several background characters, who effortlessly switch roles, make quick costume changes, and play everything from best buds of the main characters to ex-lovers to parts of the daters’ psyche. Comperatore also carefully includes some fun background happenings into his intricate staging, so viewers are advised to pay careful attention to the background as the story plays out.
The songs here are clever and cleverly delivered, often parodying “big hit” songs. Standouts include “The Girl for You” and “The Check!,” which, while funny, really hit on the challenges and anxieties surrounding first dates.
And, speaking of anxieties, Freddy Perkins is especially delightful as he delivers the “Bailout Song,” a recurring number that serves as the “bailout call” so many people schedule on first dates. In fact, both Perkins and Dan Hawkins, in their small but pertinent roles, deliver tons of humor. Elizabeth Quesada is also fun and sultry to watch, especially when she morphs herself into Aaron’s ever-present (at least in his mind) ex. Bonnie Webster does a goes job of rounding out the cast, and Sean Williams, as the bartender/hopeful performer adds lots of humor and zest to his role…as well as a little tap dancing!
The show is constantly moving and never dull, a nice counterbalance to the slow trickle character reveal that happens via Winsberg’s script. And, speaking of softer moments, Bamford absolutely nails the stand-out serious moment of the show with her powerful delivery of “Safer,” which chips away at Casey’s bravado and gets to the real meat behind it.
And, while Winsberg’s script can feel a bit unbalanced and even borders on hokey at times, this lively cast is having so much fun with it, and the direction is so pristine that any blunders in the writing are easily overlooked.
All in all, this is a fun, engaging show and a nice change of pace from the ordinary. Kudos to NRACT for finding something new and fresh to deliver in the Triangle. Everyone should find something fun and honest to relate to here.
North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre presents FIRST DATE: THE MUSICAL at 8 p.m. July 20 and 21, 3 p.m. July 22, 8 p.m. July 27 and 28, and 3 p.m. July 29 at 7713-51 Lead Mine Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27615, in the Food Lion Shopping Center.
TICKETS: $22 Friday-Saturday ($20 students, teachers, seniors, and active-duty military personnel) and $20 Sunday ($17 students, teachers, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).
First Date: The Musical (2012 Seattle and 2013 Broadway musical): https://www.rnh.com/show/399/First-Date (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization), https://zacharyandweiner.com/project/first-date/ (Zachary & Weiner), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/first-date-494331 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Date_(musical) (Wikipedia).
Alan Zachary (music and lyrics): https://zacharyandweiner.com/about/ (Zachary & Weiner bio), https://www.rnh.com/bio/2871/Zachary-Alan (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/austin-winsberg-494337 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0951618/ (Internet Movie Database).
Michael Weiner (music and lyrics): https://zacharyandweiner.com/about/ (Zachary & Weiner bio), https://www.rnh.com/bio/2872/Weiner-Michael (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/alan-zachary-494336 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0918258/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Weiner_(actor) (Wikipedia).
Austin Winsberg (book): https://www.rnh.com/bio/2870/Winsberg-Austin (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/michael-weiner-494335 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1176881/ (Internet Movie Database).
Pete Comperatore (Raleigh, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/pete.comp.3 (Facebook page).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.triangleartsreview.com/, http://www.susiepotter.com, and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.