In TheatreAC's 'First Date,' tunes tell the tale of an awkward start to romance
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
A nerdy young man and a confident young woman meet for an exceedingly awkward dinner in the contemporary pop musical First Date.
The musical, the season-ender for TheatreAC, will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and May 5 and 6, plus 3 p.m. May 7, in the Amarillo College Experimental Theatre on the Washington Street campus. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for seniors. Call 806-371-5359.
"We wanted (to stage) something new, and the music's really fun. It's not the typical style we do," director Keith Gamblin said. "This is something (the young students) can connect with better instead of something highly romanticized like Rodgers & Hammerstein. ... There's a relatability factor, and the music suits their generation."
The musical, which has a book by Austin Winsberg and music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, debuted in Seattle in 2012 and transferred to Broadway in 2013, starring Zachary Levi (Chuck) and Krysta Rodriguez (Smash).
The audience tags along on a blind date between Aaron (played by Harrison Blount) and Casey (Hannah Johnson) which goes south pretty immediately: She immediately picks up on his nerves, and he can't stop making inappropriate jokes and comments.
Throughout, the two get phone calls and go into dreamy reveries, allowing their friends, family and the bar staff (played by Lauren Cotton, Alastair Sigala Ramirez, Jason Driver and Tate Detten) to comment on the date through song. The audience eventually learns that Casey has a prediliction for bad boys — which Aaron decidedly is not — and that Aaron is still on the rebound after getting dumped at the altar.
It's not a propitious beginning, to say the least.
"This is really just one date. They have a couple of things in common, but within the first hour, they've already gotten into a huge argument," Blount said. "I don't know if it would work out in reality, but you never know. Opposites attract."
Johnson is more optimistic: "Their connection ... and their chemistry is fun."
Johnson performed in musicals at Tascosa High School, though never in a romantic lead role like this. But Blount has never sung in a musical before.
"It's been a learning experience the whole way through," he said.
The actors showed the right chemistry in auditions, Gamblin said, "and they both are quite a bit like the characters they play. Harrison and Aaron both can be awkward and will overthink things, and Hannah and Casey are very artistically driven and very passionate about their beliefs.
"And their voices — I was pretty shocked by both. They have very good voices," Gamblin said.