FIRST DATE presented Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati through Feb. 5. Click here for more information on the production. I attended the opening night performance.
As a host at a now-defunct downtown restaurant for several years, I had a front row seat to many bad first dates. Unfortunately for me, not once did anyone break out into song and none of them were nearly as entertaining to watch as FIRST DATE now playing at ETC.
While the book doesn’t cover much new territory when it comes to today’s dating scene, it is the talented, versatile, and charismatic cast, under the smart direction of Vince DeGeorge, which elevates the show. There are many touching and fun moments peppered throughout the 90 minutes to keep the audience engaged in the story. However, there are also a couple of places in the script where the momentum falters a bit.
Leads Michael Gerard Carr as Aaron and Sara Hoch as Casey are well-cast and have a great, easy chemistry together. They handle the emotional arc of the book scenes and musical numbers extremely well.
The ensemble of Jared D. Doren, Maya Farhat, Andrew Maloney, Jeremy Parker and Nathan Robert Pecchia fill out the cast as the quirky and not-too-over-the-top family, friends, and exes. They alternately coerce and cajole the duo during their dating escapade.
Music director Scot Woolley deftly leads the quartet of excellent musicians, split evenly on opposing sides of the stage, creating a rich accompaniment that belies the band’s size. Favorite numbers include “Safer,” “The Things I Never Said,” and “In Love with You.” Director DeGeorge also staged the musical numbers, giving the show consistency in emotion and humor.
Opening night as the performance neared its conclusion, the audience was definitely invested in the hopes of a happy beginning for the pair.
Overall a production that is endearing and laugh-out-loud funny. FIRST DATE makes for a great date or an enjoyable outing with friends who have dealt with their share of dating drama.
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
Tickets for FIRST DATE are selling extremely well. A 7pm performance has already been added on Feb. 5.
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