First dates don’t always go well, but occasionally, with a bit of luck, the experience can result in a good story. The new musical “First Date” explores dating dynamics with every grimace-worthy moment while still managing to fill the Longacre Theatre with uproarious laughter.
The show, which opened in August, features a seven-person cast led by two television stars who are meant for the stage. Zachary Levi (known for his role in “Chuck”) makes his Broadway debut as Aaron, the male lead and precious nerd who has a bit of heat hidden under his spectacles. His voice dominates throughout the performance, overwhelming his more seasoned Broadway co-stars, and the audience cheers him on as he portrays the most lovable character on West 48th Street. When he showcases his goofy dance moves and passionate personality in the number “In Love With You,” everyone melts, and he officially becomes the man to beat.
Krysta Rodriguez is equally suited for her role as Casey, an intimidatingly adorable pseudo-artist who can’t seem to find love, no matter how hard she tries. Fresh off of her stint as Ana Vargas in “Smash,” Rodriguez plays a different kind of diva who’s a bit less flippant than electrified. She may have assumed a dramatic persona on camera, but she seems beautifully acquainted to a comedic setting, and the chemistry between her and Levi is undeniable.
Thanks to the witty, whimsical book by Austin Winsberg, no scene falls flat. The jokes are tasteful and refined to perfection, as are the musical stylings of a flamboyant waiter (Blake Hammond) who doubles as a singer/songwriter in his spare time. As he serenades Casey and Aaron, two disillusioned romantics, they follow the first date script that is all too familiar for the former and completely new for the latter.
Things quickly spiral from bad to worse for the potential lovebirds when topics of religion and exes come into play. As the conversation becomes personal, four talented actors transform into ghosts from the past to haunt the dinner into ruin. Casey deals with the specters of her bad-boy exes and her sister, while Aaron can’t forget about his ex-girlfriend Allison (Kate Loprest). Meanwhile, Casey’s best friend Reggie (Kristoffer Cusick) calls her to bail her out of the dinner—which he assumes to be an atrocity like all the others—and becomes increasingly panicked as she ignores his sassy messages. Combine these subplots, and you’ve got hilarity like no other.
You’ll not only leave “First Date” with a grin and song stuck in your head, but you’ll also know exactly what not to talk about on your next date. (And if you go out to dinner, make sure that there are singing waiters to lighten the mood.)
“First Date” shows at the Longacre Theater, 220 W. 48th St. Performances are at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, with matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Tuesday performances are at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online and start at $35.