The two actors on the stage in First Date are carrying a great deal of weight on their shoulders as they stumble through the awkwardness of making casual conversation. They're showing us all what we look like in these same circumstances. There's a knowing laughter from the audience that pervades the early parts of this new Broadway musical, illuminating how close to home this show really strikes. Amid the tension on the stage, you can't help but recall your own worst first romantic encounters. Yet, thanks to such a hilarious script courtesy of Austin Winsberg, and powerfully charming music and lyrics from Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, there is a strong sense that this couple will escape without permanent bruising.
Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez are thrust into the uncomfortable central roles, forced to endure awkward pauses, second-guessing, and frequent visits from familiar people inside of their imaginations. The show truly captures all of the layers people go through as they size up another party and wonder what the proper protocol is every step of the way. Because of the chemistry between Levi and Rodriguez, even during moments when they're supposed to be metaphorically distant, there's a good deal to recognize and appreciate about the characters. They each show off depth that the other overlooked during their first impressions.
Levi's Aaron is the straight shooter finance type, while Rodriguez's Casey is a bit more unconventional, and unpredictable. They struggle at first to relate to one another, but over time they come around a bit. For her mid-show number, "Safer," Rodriguez acknowledges some of her demons and fears, to the amazement of the audience for both Casey's self-awareness and Rodriguez's outstanding solo.
In supporting roles, the rest of the cast moves rapidly and deliberately around the stage taking on many comedic parts and some refreshing ones. They serve as reminders of both the obstacles standing in the way of finding true love and also the other people in our lives who serve us with advice and support. This, too, rang true for the audience, who successfully put themselves into Aaron and Casey's shoes throughout the evening.