Tuesday October 25th 2016

“First Date”

firstdatelogoWhat is a cliché? a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.The old cliché is  “one man’s meat is another man’s poison.”I am sorry to say that the new musical at The Royal George Cabaret, while filled with bright talent, is also filled with a lot of situational “cliché’s”. I guess I was hoping for something more original, but what we get during this 100 plus minutes (no intermission) is a story about a blind date that goes in many directions.  The book by Austin Winsberg with music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner is filled with typical sit-com fare and for the most part the audience could easily anticipate what was coming.

The story is pretty simple. A young man, Aaron (ably played by Charlie Lubeck), who has recently been dumped is on a blind date. From his very entrance into the restaurant we can see that he is indeed a “newbie” to this world. This is sensed right away by our waiter (John Keating, who is a bit swishy, but quite comical). When his blind date arrives, Casey ( the adorable Dana Parker, with a beautiful voice), who is in fact a “serial dater”, we wonder just how long can this last?FIRST DATE full cast

Well, due to the script, and some very able-bodied ensemble members, we do make it through the play as we watch the twists and turns that these two young people have had and are about to have. The other characters in the story are all played by the ensemble members. They are in the restaurant, at tables, as couples, but they are in fact the friends, relatives, exes and anybody who has been a part of the love lives of these two people,who by all means should have ended to date within the first few minutes.

This is where I say “Hats off to a marvelous ensemble”! Cassie Slater, Shea Coffman, Anne Litchfield Calderon and the extremely funny Adam Fane, who steals many a moment away from the main characters and, spoiler alert, has a very happy ending that will surprise you. Oh well, maybe not! Directed by  J.R. Rose on a cleverly designed set  (Thad Hallstein truly uses this intimate space to perfection) with solid lighting (Brandon Lewis), costumes (Raquel Adorno) , props (Lisa Griebel) and sound by Dave Huizega. The choreography by Becky DeDecker is a delight except that the leaps onto the tables scared me a bit with actors heads being very close to the low ceilings. The musicians directed by Elizabeth Doran never overpowered the performers. This is something special in a small space, but this allowed us to hear every word of the score.

There are some cute numbers, one that will remind you of the dream sequence in “Fiddler on the Roof” in which Grandma comes to have a talk with Aaron about  Casey not being Jewish (cliché) and throughout the show the “Bailout” calls (clever and well done by  Adam Fane) and then the “Bad Boys” song (cliche).  I guess the amazing thing about this production is that despite the endless “sit-com” material, the performers keep our interest in the characters.

As I saw this show, it is probably better off viewed by a younger crowd, perhaps one that is still playing the dating game. I see this show as one that is fitting for a girls’ night out or a “bachelorette party” and maybe even a first date (but this one would be rough for me to understand). The space is intimate and yes, there is a bar, so perhaps a drink (or two) prior to the curtain would, or could, make a difference. I cannot tell you how long this one will continue at The Royal George Cabaret, as they are calling it open end. This is done when advance sales are not great, so at this point, let’s say into early March would be for sure. This could change and I hope it does.

The performance times are as follows:FIRST DATE-Adam Fane

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7  and 9:30 p.m.

Saturdays 5:30 and 8 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

Tickets range from $15- $59 and there are no bad seats in this venue. The theater is located at 1641 N. Halsted Street (just North of North Ave). To reserve your seats call 312-988-9000 or visit www.firstdatechi.com

There are street parking spots in the area, some metered and some not, but valet parking is available at the door. Plenty of dining spots on the street or on North Avenue.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “First Date”.FIRST DATE-Charlie Lubeck and Dana Parker horizontal

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