'First date' starts a good relationship with lcp
By Marilyn Jozwik
Published July 8, 2018
“First Date” had just a five-month run on Broadway ending in early 2014. Yet, Lake Country Theatre saw the potential of this fun little musical guide to dating in the age of social media and brought it to their intimate house, the first company in the state to do so.
And what a coup it is. No doubt, LCP will be the first of many to present this fast-paced show with an array of wit, pleasant tunes and relatable scenarios that click with today’s audiences, albeit mature audiences as there are a few F-bombs and some sexual language.
Ami Majeskie directs the show while Ashley Sprangers handles music direction and piano for the fine five-piece orchestra.
“First Date” speeds through a blind date with Casey (Kiera Matthews) and Aaron (Matt Ragalie) in 90 minutes real time – without intermission. Two couples in a restaurant (Ella Folkerts/Danny Slattery and Morgen Aria Clarey/Keith R. Smith) serve not only as diners, but people in Casey and Aaron’s life that the two conjure up in their thoughts at various times throughout the date. It is a clever device that works wonderfully with Folkerts playing Casey’s sister, Slattery her boyfriend, Clarey Aaron’s ex-fiancée and Smith his best friend, as well as other characters. Matt Kuhnen is the bartender/waiter.
The song “First Impressions” sets the tone for how well the Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner music captures the theme of the Austin Winsberg book. “She’s like all those girls who ignored me through school,” sings Aaron, while Casey adds, “He’s got the kind of vibe that says look at me I’m stressed.”
The date doesn’t get off to a good start and has more valleys than peaks. “The Awkward Pause” sounds a bit like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” as Casey and Aaron find themselves both tongue-tied as their table mates and waiter sing what the couple is thinking -- that they’d rather “eat a plate of glass” or “skydive with no parachute” than experience silence.
Another moment and corresponding tune finds the couple discussing religion. It’s a funny bit with Aaron imagining his dead grandma scolding him for not marrying a Jewish girl, while Casey can see her very Christian father having similar reservations. When Casey reveals she’s an atheist, the pair seemed to have navigated that hurdle. But there’s more ahead.
When Aaron tells Casey he’s not as interested in what someone looks like as in what’s inside, she is touched and imagines the “bad boys” she’s dated in the past. Slattery and Smith play the two baddies and laughter ensues during the rocking tune “That’s Why You Love Me.” Realizing that Aaron is no bad boy – far from it – she tells him they could be friends, which looks like it could be a deal breaker for Aaron.
Casey explains why she feels the way she does in “Safer,” which showcases Matthews’ marvelous, strong vocals up and down the scales, stretching the passion and emotion in the piece with conviction.
Shortly after, it’s Aaron’s turn to really get into a number as he rages about his ex, Allison, spewing “I’m so done being in love with you.” Ragalie’s Aaron explodes in anger as he stalks Allison (a cowering Clarey) all across the stage, urged on by Casey.
One of my favorite numbers is the “The Check,” a brief tune -- that sounds like a quirky mystery movie intro -- in which the four tablemates and waiter describe the dilemma of who should pay the check. The quintet sold it nicely, demonstrating a nice vocal blend in the process.
Other fun bits are the three “Bailout” moments, in which Casey’s boyfriend calls during the date to rescue her from another “catastrophic blind date” with excuses such as “your grandma broke her hip” or “your dog ate chocolate.” Slattery slickly handles the pop tune’s hilarious, hasty lyrics with lots of attitude.
This show is nicely organized, feeling like a series of vignettes that are crisply presented by this cast. There is no fat on the show. It is lean and well-edited, every tune, every scene moving the characters forward at a fast clip with some fun or surprising lyrics or revelations around every corner. Majeskie gets lots of movement from the characters, creating no dull moments, no bogged down dialog.
Matthews and Ragalie deliver strong performances and vocals to match, keeping the audience invested in their appealing, well-drawn characters. Folkerts, Smith, Slattery, Clarey and Kuhnen sprinkle the show with lots of spunk and stay engaged even when not in the spotlight.
The orchestra, tucked away on stage right (drummer Josh Hoehnke ended up in a closet off the tiny stage), provided full sound, yet never overpowered the vocals delivered with clarity.
If you go
Who: Lake Country Playhouse
What: “First Date”
When: Through July 22
Where: 221 E. Capitol Drive, Hartland
Info/Tickets: 262-367-4697; www.lakecountryplayhousewi.org