Who: The Central New York Playhouse
Where: Shoppingtown Mall – 3649 Erie Blvd E, Syracuse, NY 13214
When: February 12-27
Valentine’s Day weekend had its fair share of romantic fever, and what better way to cope with the excessive love in the air than to be entertained by The Central New York Playhouse’s sidesplitting musical comedy, “First Date,” directed by Greg J. Hipius.
Based on the novel by Austin Winsburg, “First Date” made its Broadway debut in 2012, cracking jokes as well as tugging at the heartstrings of its audiences. The show follows multiple characters at a speed dating bar, but focuses on Casey (Michele Lindor) and Aaron (Jordan Westfall), two people with very different backgrounds and intense personalities. It takes a village (family members, friends and a waiter turned wannabe Broadway star), to coax these two into opening up to each other, and learn that love can be something deeper than just a paid dinner or a dozen roses.
Music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner are composed with quirky, sing- songlike elements (but not without purpose). The songs depict the often silly moments of meeting a random stranger and expecting an instant connection. When Casey and Aaron meet they attempt to achieve this instant connection, until both of them order an alcoholic beverage to drown in their frustrations instead.
Debunking gender stereotypes is often one of the main messages in these songs (and with good reason), for each one has something to say about the outlandish roles men and women partake in relationships. When Aaron decides to drink a beer before speaking to Casey he’s trying to take the edge off of being “the man,” the guy who’s supposed to make the first move. In “The Check,” Casey and Aaron freeze at a standstill over who is going to pay for dinner, until the men in the ensemble say, “it’s all those crazy feminists who made this shit so friggin’ hard,” a clever stab at how ridiculous gender expectations really are.
Lindor embodies Casey’s strong personality by her equally strong voice in “Something That Will Last,” sung with powerful emotion as she comes to terms with her growing independence as a woman and the conflicts that arise when she’s faced with her feelings for Aaron. The songs appropriately poke fun at the couple’s “awkward pause” (referencing “The Awkward Pause” song), while also conveying a clear, thoughtful message about today’s dating scene.
“The Awkward Pause” and “The Check” add clever humor that’s enjoyable and easy to understand. The show’s choreography and harmonized vocal ranges were well executed; with each actor’s physicality and over-the-top vibrato a part of the shows excellent comedic timing. The Central New York Playhouse’s “First Date” captures serious meaningful topics without losing its ability to laugh at itself too.