Jillian Cain, Seth Brewer, Josh O’Brien, Collette Priddy, Phil Gosselin, Louisa Frey, & Alex Roby in First Date. Photo: CenterStage

First Date

Book by Austin Winsberg
Music and Lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner
Directed by Erin Silliman

A review by Kate Barry

Entire contents are copyright © 2023 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.

Everyone has a horror story about a first date. Those brief encounters over coffee or dinner with the possibility for romance. Or not. Sometimes a second date occurs, if you are lucky. Most of the time, that first date ends up being the last date. This is not the case for CenterStage’s production of First Date. This light and bubbly musical comedy has all the first-date tropes that are far too common to anyone looking for love. 

Comprised of a seven-person ensemble, First Date keeps the musical numbers flowing and the mood light with funny moments. Josh O’Brien, Jillian Cain, Alex Roby, Collette Priddy, and Phil Gosselin are a solid ensemble comprised of bros, waiters, rappers, evil exes, and judgmental sisters. Remaining in the background while the main character’s love story blossoms, the supporting players blend their voices well with the varied genres of music as they enter and leave the main action of the play.

Alex Roby’s “Bailout Songs” are well choreographed with just the right timing and camp. Josh O’Brien hams it up as a dude-bro best friend giving advice while providing lovely lead vocals in the charming “The Awkward Pause.” Jillian Cain gives a strong supporting performance as the sister of the woman involved in the first date, while Collette Priddy is seductive yet charming as an ex during the “Allison’s Theme” sequences. Phil Gosselin is a charming waiter with a pointed punch who has surely seen his fair share of dates. He is an absolute dream at the top of the second act as he croons “I’ll Order Love.”

The focus of First Date is Aaron and Casey, played with delightful chemistry by Seth Brewer and Louisa Frey. Set up on a blind date, Aaron is overdressed, nervous, and awkward while Casey is guarded and reluctant to even show up. Frey plays the sarcasm and cynicism with plenty of bite. Her rendition of “Safer” has many shades of vulnerability that pay off in the second act. Brewer plays the comedic bits perfectly even though his musical vocals seemed to get lost in the venue sound system and on-stage band. Regardless, Brewer and Frey are a nice duo as they embark on awkward silences, small talk, and chit-chat while progressing towards something more heartfelt and promising. As the show reaches its conclusion, you cannot help but smile at the prospect that Aaron and Casey just might have a second date.

During the pre-show curtain speech, director Erin Silliman addressed the terrors and harsh realities of the world, specifically in relation to the Jewish Community Center. Smartly, Ms. Silliman remarked that these issues are not unnoticed by those involved in the play. Rather, she hoped those watching First Date would be reminded of the positive messages of loving yourself and remembering what strengths you bring to a relationship. Indeed, First Date gives hope to anyone who is looking for love.

First Date

November 2, 4, 9, 11 @ 7:30 pm
November 5 & 12 @ 2:00 pm 

Centerstage at the Trager Family JCC
3600 Dutchman’s Lane
Louisville, KY 40205

Kate Barry has worked with many different companies around town since graduating in 08 from Bellarmine University. She’s worked with CenterStage, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions. She used to work in the box office at that little performing arts center on Main Street but now she helps save the planet. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. Her play “Catcher Released” won an honorable mention with the Kentucky Playwrites Workshop. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga. Thanks for reading!