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First Date: Summer Show at MusicalFare

THE BASICS:  This perky tale of disparate singles out on a blind date was written by Austin Winsberg, with music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner. After a brief tryout in Seattle, it moved to Broadway (in 2013), where it had a respectable five month run.  The regional premiere, at MusicalFare Theatre, runs through August 11th.  Doug Weyand directs (and choreographed) a cast of five. The musical director (and pianist) is Theresa Quinn.  FIRST DATE plays without an intermission (although it sure could have used one), and runs about 90 minutes.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH:  A bar/restaurant inNew York City, present day.  Can Aaron, a nebbishy, nervous, nose-to-the-grindstone, straight arrow type who has never gotten over being dumped at the altar, find happiness with Casey, a sharp-tongued, artsy but rather unfocused serial dater, whose guard is perennially up?

Let me walk that back a little:  Can Aaron, a nebbishy, nervous, nose-to-the grindstone, straight arrow type, and Casey, a sharp-tongued, artsy, highly guarded but rather unfocused serial dater, find enough common ground and basic civility to get them through drinks and a quick supper?

Could this semi-disastrous encounter possibly lead to a SECOND date??

THE PLAY, THE PLAYERS AND THE PRODUCTION:  Mr. Winsberg’s  boy-meets-girl tale is the stuff of dinner theater, pleasant and largely predictable.  But FIRST DATE has an excellent gimmick in the form of a three member secondary cast. These three, who play multiple roles, float in and out, figments from the over- heated imaginations of the daters, assuming the form of  friends, exes and assorted relatives with whom they can argue, etc.  I must say, it works pretty well.

The score by Zachary and Weiner is pop/Broadway style.  There is a lot of drive, and a couple of heartfelt anthems, but let’s just say that it is melodically challenged.  The lyrics, a mixed bag, seem pretty darn clever now and then, but not consistently.  One wonders exactly who did what and when, with the unusual dual authorship credit.

Michelle Marie Roberts and Marc Sacco do very well as the Girl and the Boy. Ms Roberts’ remarks drip acid; her towering voice gets its best chance in the touching ballad “Safer”.  Mr Sacco’s forte is comedy; he does a lot of funny little things all through the show.   Dudney Joseph, Jr. has great vocal chops, and Kevin Kennedy has a lot of fun showing off his versatility.

Director Weyand makes good use of the stage, and keeps it all a-bubble. The whole creative team is well up to snuff, as one expects at MusicalFare.

IN SUM:  I laughed a fair amount during FIRST DATE, and I expect you will, too. But, in the last analysis, I couldn’t help feeling that a lot of what went down was kind of forced and… dippy.  Still, there’s a lot of fine talent on display here, especially in the voice department.  On your way out, check out Teresa Quinn, who was simply killing on keyboard and vocal in the lounge area the evening I attended.

Images courtesy MusicalFare Theatre

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Grant Golden

Grant Golden

GRANT GOLDEN wears a number of hats. He has been practicing radiology in Buffalo since 1981, for the past 15 years, with Seton Imaging. Dr Laszlo Tabar, internationally famous mammographer, has been his special friend and mentor.

Grant began The Old Chestnut Film Society, Buffalo’s only film society, in 1983. Now in its 35th consecutive season, the OCFS does monthly screenings of Hollywood classics in 16mm.

He has written the scores (and some of the books) for a number of locally produced musicals, including the old WONDERMAKERS shows, THE OTHER ISLAND, NOBODY’S INN (Alleyway Theatre), IZZY! (Musicalfare), and ME II (Western Door Playhouse). He reviewed local plays on the radio for 20 years--on WBEN and WBFO—before making the switch to BuffaloRising.

Grant and his lovely wife Deborah live in Central Park with their dog Ginger, and cats Ella and Felix. They have three adult children, and now, happily, two grandchildren!

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