Magazine article Variety

A `First'-Rate Evening

Magazine article Variety

A `First'-Rate Evening

Article excerpt

A 'First'-rate evening

LEGIT: FIRST DATE (REGIONAL)

ACT's Falls Theater, Seattle: 409 seats; $79 top

Music & lyrics: Alan Zachary, Michael Weiner; Book: Austin Winsberg;

Cast: Eric Antrim, Kelly Karbacz

Most first dates are a complete story, with a beginning, middle and definitive end. But the best ones are preludes to something grander, and such is the case with "First Date," a chamber musical developed by Seattle's ACT Theater and 5th Avenue Theater. The project, written by Austin Winsberg ("Gossip Girl," "Jake in Progress") with music and lyrics by Disney alums Michael Weiner and Alan Zachary, looks to have a happy future ahead.

Elegantly conceived and executed, "First Date" follows a blind date from awkward introduction to equally awkward good-night kiss. Along the way, the central characters, Aaron (Eric Ankrim) and Casey (Kelly Karbacz), detour into memories and fantasy with the help of four able singer-dancers playing multiple roles.

All the key moments of a typical first date are noted in song, from "First Impression" (one of the evening's most memorable numbers) to The Check!" One funny recurring bit is a musical "Bailout" call from Casey's best friend - a prearranged phone call designed to serve as her excuse for a quick exit, should she need one.

Does she? That's the question that drives the action of this compact show. The would-be lovers are clearly mismatched: Casey is a sharp-tongued beauty, defensive from being repeatedly let down by the "bad boys" she gravitates toward. ("I love the smell of cigarettes and apathy," she croons.) Aaron is a nebbishy square, who can't stop idealizing the last ball-buster who also broke his heart.

If the show is at all unbalanced, it's that Aaron, in Ankrim 's adorably dorky portrayal, is much more sympathetic than Casey, played with an acid edge by the able Karbacz. …

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