Spotlighters is celebrating their 56th season in Baltimore, and has been iconic for various reasons. Although I was sad to hear in the curtain speech that they are not moving to a new space anytime soon, I was excited they are staying on as a Baltimore staple. In 56 years it is not easy to please everyone, and have stellar seasons all the time, but debuting works no one has seen, like First Date, and continuing to offer high quality performances in a limited space is what has given them staying power.
First Date apparently was on Broadway for a brief run. I can see for myself, and from the Dramaturg note, why it was not as successful in this venue. It needs a small space, it is a big musical piece with catchy tunes and clever lyrics but it isn’t showy in the Broadway scale of productions. It is a fun look at the anxiety and though processes of an awkward first (blind) date. The two leads, Lindsay Litka as Casey, and Reed DeLisle as Aaron are funny and easy to watch. They both have wonderful singing voices and comic timing that is pat. As they meet at a bar for drinks, they stumble through guarded but strange levels of conversation but ultimately decide to stay the course and have dinner.
The supporting cast plays a variety of roles from a sassy over-dramatic BFF, to a runaway bride, to complete figments of Casey and Aaron’s imagination. Matt Wetzel as Reggie, and Jim Gross as the singing waiter who is trying to break into showbiz are two of the standout performances. The set is simple, the lighting kept simple as well, but the story doesn’t require elaborate staging or a magnitude of props to get the message across- that first dates suck. And blind dates suck. And first blind dates extra suck. Even when people you love have done the match-making.
I do love when Spotlighters has a live pit band- it adds a bit of nuance not found in many local theaters. And Michael Tan’s usual high caliber of aesthetic is no exception here. With Greg Bell, John Jeffries, and William George rounding out his orchestra, these seasoned musical pros did not miss a beat, did not overplay the actors, and added exactly the right amount of musical punctuation and underscoring. Bravo gentlemen.
It is a campy, modern look at dating and has some truly funny moments. Some are less funny in performance than they probably seemed at first, but all in all it is sure to please, sure to make you grin and think of the ghost of dates past and reminisce about your own failed dates, romances, and chances at second-chances.
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO? Go. It is a fun and light-hearted show that is surprisingly relevant and entertaining. Make a night of it and get some drinks/munchies at one of the many local establishments. Just, maybe, don’t make it a blind first date (lol). (I)
Running time about 90 minutes with no intermission. Running at Spotlighters theater through 1/21.