First Date • Pit & Balcony Explores the Trials & Tribulations of the Dating Game

Regional Premier of Edgy & Innovative Contemporary Musical Runs May 12-14 & 19-21

    icon Apr 27, 2023
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Pit & Balcony Community Theatre will be continuing the Spring portion of their exceptional 91st season with the regional premier of the colorful, contemporary, and edgy romantic musical First Date, which creatively explores the way threads connect people together through a ritual familiar to all of us.

With a book by Austin Winsberg and music & lyrics by Alan Zachary & Michael Wiener, the production will debut May 12-14th with additional performances running May 19-21st.

This romantic-musical made its Broadway debut in August of 2013, and through the innovative weaving of script and musical numbers proves to serve up satisfying courses to digest  about the horrors, humiliations and occasional happy surprises of blind dates. The narrative follows blind date newbie Aaron, who is set up with a somewhat jaded & cynical serial-dater, Casey, as they meet for the first time for a casual drink at a busy New York restaurant that soon evolves into a hilarious high-stakes dinner.

As the date unfolds in real time, the couple quickly finds they are not alone on this unpredictable evening, as each of their ‘inner critics’ suddenly take on a life of their own when other restaurant patrons transform into the voices of friends, manipulative exes, and protective parents, who sing and dance this erstwhile couple through the various ice-breakers, appetizers, and potential land mines populating the terrain of the dating game.  Throughout all of this, the question becomes whether they can turn what could be a dating disaster into something special before the check arrives.

The character of Aaron, portrayed by Justin Russell, hasn’t been on a date since his wife left him and upon entering the lion’s den already regrets he let his best friend set him up on this one.  Aaron is what any woman would recognize as Mr. Nice Guy, who makes a better friend than a lover. The bombshell Casey, on the other hand, is portrayed by Heather Koch and is a neo-punk, height-of-fashion cutie who drinks with both fists and goes for bad boys. Casey seems likely to make short work of awkward Aaron; yet the friction between their personalities produces terrific chemistry, and the smartly written script guarantees that, while their early exchanges are abrasive, they’re also genuinely witty.  

Of course, no sooner do Aaron and Casey get past the first meeting rituals only to find themselves stumbling over other social landmines, like “The Awkward Pause” and, inevitably, “The Check!”  Not to mention the familiar critics like friends, exes, and family who materialize at the drop of a hat (or the sound of a musical intro) to offer ill-timed and unwanted advice.

“What I really love about this musical is that unlike many traditional musicals where the songs more or less follow the narrative of the script, with First Date the songs contribute to the story by giving it depth and different dimensions,” explains Director Chad William Baker. “With the song The One that starts at the beginning it kind of sets the thematic stage, but with the next song Impressions you hear each actor singing their thoughts about the other person while everything else around them freezes. That happens in a lot of these songs, because that’s when the characters leave real time reality and move into what they’re thinking about at the time.”

“There’s two other couple in the restaurant along with a with a waiter at the start of their date, but those five people become other people in their lives. For example, Aaron imagines his best friend Dave giving him advice about how to win over girls, so those thoughts will pop into his head in the form of a song, with all the action taking place in this restaurant over the course of 90-minutes.”

According to Baker, both lead actors Justin & Heather did not know one another before auditioning and had never interacted before, which was perfect for the nature of the script; yet they each had an infectious back-and-forth chemistry that worked well together.

The other three male characters in the cast include Spencer Beyerlein, Matthew Howe, and Greg Allison; while the two women are portrayed by Barbie Carr and Olivia Greanias, Musicians laying down the musical soundtrack consist of Jim Hohmeyer, Susan Mercy, Vickie Bowden, David Mateo, Aiden McLaughlin, and Lane Butler.

“The challenge with this production is that the music is just as important as the lines in the scenes,” continues Baker. “Because the two are equal we learn a lot about the characters through the scenes and the music amplifies the dimension of their characters, so the chemistry between the two is established both ways.”

When asked what drew him to direct this production and what he feels audiences will find most intriguing, Chad references the way it untangles the truths behind the dating game. “No matter how hard it is, we all just keep going on dates until we find the one person that fits. As bad as it can get we see how you never know when you’re going to find that one person that changes everything about you, which gives a lot of hope to a process that many times can really suck and be difficult.”

“I think it’s a feel good musical that has substance behind it, with some adult humor that I enjoy,” concludes Baker. “It’s not so sweet that it gets you sick and it’s not your typical romantic musical comedy. It’s cynical and dark enough to give it an edge.  As their date evolves Aaron will talk about his mother dying and Casey will discuss the tough relationship she had with her parents, and these are things we eventually do talk about on a date; whereas most musical comedies brush off the baggage carried by each of the characters.”

“I like that each of these characters are bringing some baggage into the relationship and we see it and laugh at it; but more importantly, we know learn more about the reasons they are the way they are.”

Pit & Balcony’s regional premier of ‘First Date’ will run Friday through Sunday, May 12-13 & 19-21st. Friday & Saturday performances are at 7:30 PM an Sunday matinees are at 3:00 PM. Tickets are $20.00 and can be purchased online at or by phoning 989.754.6587.

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