SLOC’s First Date Worth a Second Outing

SCHENECTADY – At some point, we have all gone on that dreaded “first date.” Some, perhaps, the even more scary “blind date.” Austin Winsberg’s book, with music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, sets the stage for that comically scary blind first date. Currently at the Schenectady Light Opera Company, First Date A Musical Comedy is a delightful look into the minds, quite literally, of Aaron (Jacob James) and Casey (Emily Mitzen). Aaron is a geeky, somewhat nerdy nebbish while Casey is a leather-jacketed, tattooed rabble-rouser. On paper, the two should have nothing at all in common. The date is arranged by Casey’s brother-in-law, who works with Aaron. 

The play takes place in a nondescript New York City bar/restaurant, surrounded by tables filled with others clearly on dates. The play opens with all the couples sharing their first-date disasters with the audience. The entertaining conceit of the play is that the action consistently freezes and the audience is treated to a live-action performance of what is happening inside the protagonists’ heads. The activity is narrated by Zach Kaiser who plays multiple roles as the waiter, the therapist, Casey’s father, and Twitter. Along the way, we meet Regan Zlotnick as Lauren (Casey’s sister), and also inhabiting the characters of Aaron’s deceased grandmother Ida (in a direct steal from the dream sequence in Fiddler On The Roof), Aaron’s mother, and Facebook. Ryan Nolan is Gabe  (Aaron’s best friend), YouTube, and Stoner Guy. Caleb Lee deftly performs numerous roles, notably Reggie, a drag friend of Casey who is her bailout phone friend in case the date is going badly, Aaron’s future son, and several other lesser characters. All of the performers move deftly through their various roles. 

Once again, SLOC has put together a strong, talented cast for this production. Jacob James and Emily Mitzen are pure musical theater perfection. They combine great musical talent, strong acting, and perfect timing to take the audience on this most joyful journey. They are backed up by a solid cast led by Zach Kaiser, who spends almost as much time talking to the audience as he does mingling with the on-stage cast. Kaiser’s comic timing and attitude are flawless. Nolan and Zlotnick play superb head game counterpoint to their “live” characters.

Director Francesco Carlo Archina does a great job moving the cast flawlessly through the iterations of their various roles, making it all seem very believable and real. Musical Director Cameron Clarke Stevens does a superb job with this very talented cast. Mani Velvet McCalmon has the large ensemble move effortlessly through their dance numbers.  Set designer Marc Christopher has cleverly re-imagined the set from SLOC’s previous production of Once.

First Date is fun and a little bit nerve-wracking. From the opening number extolling disastrous first dates to the inevitable happily-ever-after, you’ll find yourself rooting for the unlikely duo and (if you’ve ever been on a blind first date of your ow joining in their stress and be reminded of the voices that played in your own heads. Sit back, relax and let someone else have the stress while you have all the fun.

First Date plays at Schenectady Light Opera, 427 Franklin Street, Schenectady, through this Sunday. For ticket information: 518-730-7370 or online at Masks are required while in the theater for all audience members.

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