‘First Date’ answers relationship questions

Aaron (Joshua Cavanaugh) sings "First Impressions" with Casey (Cassandra Nuss)
Aaron (Joshua Cavanaugh) sings “First Impressions” with Casey (Cassandra Nuss)

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal
Special to the Village News

What could possibly go wrong when two strangers are set up on a blind date? These and many other questions are answered by the San Diego Musical Theatre troupe now playing at the Horton Grand Theatre. “First Date” is bright, truthful, and hilarious.

Universal in appeal, “First Date” is quick to point out the need to “silence our inner critic”. Haunted by past relationships, Aaron and Casey meet at a popular bistro for their blind date arranged by Aaron’s co-worker, who happens to be Casey’s sister’s husband.

The fun begins when opposites don’t always attract. Which is what sparks the mischief. Inner voices start to speak loudly amidst the stop action sequences. Family members mysteriously appear into the scenes, besties continue making rescue calls, while internal conversations drive the story forward through the lyrics and music.  For anyone that has ever been on a blind date – this clever production is not to be missed.

Aaron (Joshua Cavanaugh) is the perfect “great guy”. He has a good job. He is well dressed. He is polite. And he is every girl’s, mother’s idea of a perfect husband.  Cavanaugh plays him right on target. He is not to too nerdy, needy, or normal.  A flawless example of an average-good-guy played so well, it is easy to miss.

Naturally, Casey (Cassandra Nuss), who is historically drawn to bad boys, finds Aaron a bit too inexperienced for her dating arena.  Yet, since Aaron works with her brother-in-law, and Casey must keep her sister happy, she is compelled to be nice. In a crystal, clear voice, Casey exposes her insecurities when she decides it is “safer” to keep Aaron in the “friend zone”.

All of the other five players have standout performances. Each playing multiple characters they are listed in the program as Woman 1 and 2 or Man 1, 2, or 3. Their primary roles, however, are noted here.

With Casey (Cassandra Nuss) on the left, Waiter (John Massey), center, explains to Aaron (Joshua Cavanaugh) that he recommended "I'd Order Love".  Ken Jacques photo
With Casey (Cassandra Nuss) on the left, Waiter (John Massey), center, explains to Aaron (Joshua Cavanaugh) that he recommended “I’d Order Love”. Ken Jacques photo

The waiter (John Massey) is engaging in every way. With a lusty voice and twinkly eyes, Massey can sing, dance and act while serving.

Reggie (Jonathan Sangster) is Casey’s BFF (best friend forever) or bestie in this case – he knocks his performance out of the park!  Outrageously funny, he takes no prisoners when he gets the spot light.

Allison (Lindsay Joan) plays Aaron’s ex-girlfriend. Her comic timing is as flawless as her singing. And then there is Gabe (Zachary Wolfe) who is everyman’s naughty subconscious.   Always speaking his uncensored thoughts out loud, he still manages to be cute without being smarmy.

Lauren (Lauren Thompson) is Casey’s married sister, Aaron’s grandmother Ida, and a list of personalities ripe for the physiatrist’s couch. She brings spirit and versatility to each character.

“First Date” premiered in Seattle in 2012 followed by a stint on Broadway, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Australia and Japan. The book was written by Austin Winsberg with lyrics and music by Alan Zachary and Michael Wiener.

Director J. Scott Lapp has expertly guided the cast around the brilliant choreography of Allison Pearce. Lighting was key to this show and it was spot on – co-designed by A.J. Paulin and Michael Von Hoffman. Costumes are always important and Janet Pitcher is on the mark.

Music director John Lorenz and conductor/keyboardist Dan Bailey had a first rate band with Vince Cooper on guitar, Rick Ogden guitar/reeds, Martin Martiarena on bass, and Dave Rumley on drums.

“First Date” only plays until May 7 at the Horton Grand Theatre, 444 4th Street in downtown San Diego.Parking is across the street but come early. The Box Office can be reached at (858) 560.5740 or www.sdmt.org.

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