The work, which received a Seattle premiere co-produced by A.C.T. and the 5th Avenue Theatre, features a book by Austin Winsberg ("Gossip Girl"), with music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner (Secondhand Lions, Twice Charmed), who began writing songs together in high school.
"They say write what you know," librettist Winsberg told Playbill.com, "and as we collectively got together and started talking about what we know, it turned out we know that we're not such great daters." The trio of 30-somethings crafted a new work based on their own dating experiences and set up uptight Aaron (Levi) with super-chic Casey (Rodriguez) in First Date.
"Truly, the scariest thing about this show," added Weiner, "is probably [that] everything is taken from our own lives or our friends' lives in some way. We have friends who will see this show…and maybe they won't be friends with us afterwards!" In First Date, the ensemble of five make up the figures from Aaron and Casey's past, and classic dating moments like "the First Impression" and "the Awkward Pause" are musicalized throughout.
Bill Berry (producing director of The 5th Avenue Theatre), who helmed the world premiere, directs the Broadway production, and Josh Rhodes (Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella) provides musical staging. Opening night on Broadway is set for Aug. 8.
The cast includes Levi (Broadway debut, TV's "Chuck," Disney's "Tangled," upcoming "Thor: The Dark World"), Rodriguez ("Smash," The Addams Family), Sara Chase ("Arrested Development," The Toxic Avenger), Kristoffer Cusick (Wicked, Rent), Blake Hammond (Sister Act, Billy Elliot), Kate Loprest ("Boardwalk Empire," Hairspray), Vicki Noon (Wicked, Mamma Mia!), Bryce Ryness (Hair, Leap of Faith, Legally Blonde), Eric Ankrim (Broadway debut), Kevin Kern (Wicked, The Wedding Singer, Les Miz) and Sydney Shepherd (Broadway debut). As previously announced, the role of Aaron will be played by Ankrim, who originated the role in the 2012 Seattle production, from July 16-21, as a result of a standing commitment for Levi.
Here's how the new Broadway musical is billed: "When tightly wound Aaron (Levi) is set up with serial-dater Casey (Rodriguez) a quick drink at a busy New York restaurant turns into a hilarious, high-stakes dinner. As the date unfolds in real time, the couple quickly finds they are not alone on this date as Casey and Aaron's inner critics take on a life of their own when other restaurant patrons and the wait staff get into the act. Dinner is served with sides of Google background checks, fake emergency phone calls, supportive best friends, manipulative exes and protective parents, who sing and dance them through ice-breakers, appetizers and potential conversational land mines. First Date is Broadway's new hysterical and hopeful new musical about the chances we take to find love."
The creative team includes scenic designer David Gallo, costume designer David C. Woolard, lighting designer Mike Baldassari, sound designer Kai Harada and hair designer Josh Marquette. Musical supervision, vocal and incidental arrangements are by Dominick Amendum, and August Eriksmoen orchestrates.
Tickets can be purchased at Telecharge.com or by calling (212) 239-6200.
First Date is produced by Junkyard Dog Productions (Randy Adams, Marleen and Kenny Alhadeff, Sue Frost) in association with Stem Productions, Altar Identity Studios, Alex and Katya Lukianov, Susan W. and James C. Blair Family LP, Linda and Bill Potter, Yasuhiro Kawana, Vijay and Sita Vashee, Kevin and Lynn Foley, Jeff and Julie Goldstein, Edward and Mimi Kirsch, Frank and Denise Phillips, Paula and Stephen Reynolds, Alhadeff Family Productions/Sheri and Les Biller , Pat Halloran/Laura Little Theatrical Productions, Tony Meola/Remmel T. Dickinson and John Yonover, and ShadowCatcher Entertainment/Tom and Connie Walsh.
The musical was originally co-produced by The 5th Avenue Theatre (David Armstrong, executive producer and artistic director; Bernadine Griffin, managing director, Bill Berry, producing director) and A Contemporary Theatre Seattle, WA (Kurt Beattie, artistic director, and Carlo Scandiuzzi, executive director).