Civic Theatre musical will take audiences on a "First Date"
Even terrifying at times.
That first date can make you sweat.
That’s the premise of the chamber musical First Date, book by Austin Winsberg and music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner.
Aaron C. Wade will direct the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre production of First Date, March 8-11, at the Arthur Miller Theatre on the north campus of the University of Michigan.
“First Date is a play about a man and woman who are hooked up on a blind date by his relatives. It’s about the evening they spend and all the interruptions from the voices they hear in their heads telling them what they should and shouldn’t do,” said Wade.
Wade is making his debut as a stage director.
“This play is good for starting out because it’s a one-act show,” he said. “It’s half music and half acting there’s a lot of choreography, so the amount of work I had to do working with the performers was re duced significantly. So I had more time to figure out what I wanted to do and how to approach it.”
Aaron and Casey are the two seemingly mismatched daters. They each come with their own set of assumptions and personality quirks.
Sarah Mazurek plays Casey.
“Casey is sort of a cold and rough person especially in the beginning,” Mazurek said. “She’s a little alternative in the way she's dressed and her beliefs, but she is a very complicated character and she starts to open up with Aaron. We find out that he’s a little nerdy and that she is actually a deep and caring person.”
Mazurek, a 2017 Dexter High School graduate, said the challenge was in playing a person so different from herself.
“She’s very standoffish and I feel that I’m pretty engaging and try to act the best I can with everyone,” Mazurek said. “She is off in her own world, she doesn’t think that way. So coming off harsh and cold is the biggest challenge for me.”
Mazurek has done musicals and plays at school and with a community theater group in Howell.
Aaron is played by Drew Benson. He said he’s also struggling with a character who has a very different personality.
“He’s very insecure about himself, kind of awkward, kind of nerdy, and he’s had some bad experiences with women in the past. He wants to make a good impression,” Benson said.
He said some of the things he does and says are a little infuriating but he has to stay true to the character.
Benson did a minor in theater at Eastern Michigan University and has appeared in several productions.
“The staging is very simple because it’s mostly the same scene through the entire show," he said. "We have three tables and a bar and the actors move to where they need to depending on how the conversation goes. There’s a lot less strategic blocking and lot more reaction."
The challenge for Wade in doing a musical is shifting gears from musical to stage play.
“We have to figure how to come out of a song and make it cohesive,” Wade said. “The song is there for a reason: It either has an emotive quality or something about the personality or about changing their minds and we have to not stumble as we move from music back to dialogue.”
The music is more pop- and rock-centered then more traditional musicals.
“The music is modern, a lot of rock songs, references to stuff like Lady Gaga and Green Day and Simon and Garfunkel, with a song that’s very similar to 'The Sound of Silence,'” Wade said.
Debbie Nichols is the show’s music director.
Wade and Mazurek agree that the standout song is “Safer.”
“It’s where after they meet she gets to bare her soul about she feels that it’s disrupted her life and how she wants to get ahead but it held back by her own insecurity,” Wade said.
Wade said he hopes the musical makes a strong enough impression on the audience that they spread the word.
“Telling people about this show is difficult because nobody has really heard of it before,” he said. “It was on Broadway five years ago and it did OK, but there were bigger shows that kind of plowed over it,” he said.
Mazurek and Benson find a positive message in the musical.
“I would like people to open their minds to the people around them and the people they interact with and not judge people,” Mazurek said.
Benson echoed those sentiments.
“Be understanding when you are meeting somebody new,” he said. “We all have different life experiences and when someone might come off as awkward or hostile, they are going through their own challenges and you need to look past superficial differences."
Others in the cast are Wynton Doty, Wil Lewis III, Kimberly Lock, Tina Paraventi, Sarah Sweeter, Jessica Dodson Terlep, and Eric VanWassnova.
Hugh Gallagher has written theater and film reviews over a 40-year newspaper career and was most recently managing editor of the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers in suburban Detroit."
"First Date" will be presented at the Arthur Miller Theater on the north campus of the University of Michigan at 7:30 pm, Thursday, March 8; 8 pm, Friday, March 9 and Saturday, March 10; and 2 pm, Sunday, March 11. Tickets available online at a2ct.org or by calling 734-971-2228 or at the door.