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First Date
a Musical
by Austin Winsberg (book) and Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner (songs)

COMPANY : Marietta Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Theatre In The Square:Alley Stage [WEBSITE]
ID# 5234

SHOWING : February 09, 2018 - February 24, 2018



When blind date newbie Aaron is set up with serial-dater Casey, a casual drink at a busy New York restaurant turns into a hilarious high-stakes dinner. As the date unfolds in real time, the couple quickly finds that they are not alone on this unpredictable evening. In a delightful and unexpected twist, Casey and Aaron’s inner critics take on a life of their own when other restaurant patrons transform into supportive best friends, manipulative exes and protective parents, who sing and dance them through ice-breakers, appetizers and potential conversational land mines. Can this couple turn what could be a dating disaster into something special before the check arrives?

Director/Choreographer Zach Phelps
Woman #2 Becky Ittner
Man #2 John Jenkins
Casey Ashley Prince
Aaron Chris Saltalamacchio
Woman #1 Abi Sneathen
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First and Worst
by playgoer
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Zac Phelps has taken a note from the playbook of directors of Georgia Shakespeare’s productions at Oglethorphe University and has choreographed Marietta Theatre Company’s production of "First Date" to ensure good stage pictures for those seated in the center of the audience area and rotten stage pictures for those seated on the fringes of the audience area. Lighting designer Brad Rudy has taken an additional note from Live Arts Theatre’s production of "Fiorello" and positioned lights to shine directly in audience members’ eyes if they are seated in the "bad" section of the audience. These factors can conspire to turn what should be an enjoyable show into a sub-par experience. Sit in the reserved seats center or expect a disappointing physical production.

The story itself concerns a blind date between nerdy Jewish Aaron (Chris Saltalamacchio) and edgy shiksa Casey (Ashley Prince). Five others populate the story as denizens of the restaurant bar where they meet and as figures from their internal life. Zac Phelps, as director, has gotten good performances out of everyone. Michael Vine and Abi Sneathen in particular provide some wonderful characterizations, and Brian Brooks makes a concerted effort to play to all members of the audience in his crowd-pleasing portrayal of a waiter.

Music director Laura Gamble has provided nicely orchestrated backing tracks and has gotten good vocal performances out of everyone, although sound levels sometimes make vocals unintelligible unless the singer is facing your section of the audience. Mr. Phelps’ inventive choreography can sometimes contribute to vocal strain and a winded quality in the most active numbers.

Will Brooks’ simple set consists of a bar on a platform upstage and a couple of table/chair configurations to suggest a restaurant, augmented by a storage shelf stage right and a blackboard sign stage left. Brad Rudy’s lighting scheme includes illumination on the face of the bar. It’s a small set, but serviceable. Costumes and props are fine, with telling little touches that indicate forethought in their appearance.

Bouncy songs punctuate an awkward date between two fairly unlikable characters. Mr. Saltalamacchio invests Aaron with a ton of personality and terrific timing and line readings, but his performance seems sized for a larger playing space than the intimate Alley Stage. Ms. Prince’s performance is smaller and better suited to the size of the venue, but the contrast between the two performances doesn’t allow for the sentimental moments of the second act to really jell. The comedy of the first act comes through loud and strong, but the lower-key second act deflates the fun, aiming for a feel-good ending.

Is "First Date" the best choice for entertainment on a blind first date? Probably not, but it seems to be wowing audiences that have moved past that awkward initial stage into a more stable relationship and can look back on the woes of a dating life with something approaching nostalgia. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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