The first production of 2019 from Grand Theatre Company is here, and it’s an emotional roller-coaster.
The musical comedy “First Date” is part of the Backstage at the Grand series. With only five actors, the cast and crew managed to weave a tight and engaging performance that features more than 15 characters, each of which are unique and separate from the last role they performed. The set was masterfully crafted, lit and designed with intention.
The play is written by Austin Winsberg, who promises beautiful songs and laughs. That isn’t all “First Date” has to offer, though. It’s an emotional, relatable story, that guarantees to make anyone revel in what a first date could be.
The play centers around Aaron, a put-together, Jewish good-boy, and Casey, an intimidating, artistic and passionate woman, on a blind date. Casey is bored of dating and Aaron is a “BDV”, or blind date virgin, as Casey so eloquently named him.
The show explores the pitfalls — and soaring heights — that each first date could bring in 2019. Between the awkward silences, which there is a musical number for, and ignored phone calls from Casey’s best-friend Reggie to “bail-her-out”, “First Date” wears its heart on its sleeve.
Being masters in their craft, the actors have managed to make themselves into five or six fully realized characters, most notably Man 1, performed by Dayne Cade, and Woman 1, performed by Michelle Lynn Thompson. Between the two there are a total of 12 roles.
Cade found some challenges in his role as Man 1. Being a University of Utah alum from their vocal performance program, he managed to make it work.
“Remembering which character of the six I play came next in a scene and how I was going to convincingly find the time to change not only my costume, but demeanor, within a split second was a challenge,” says Cade.
The role of Man 1 was complex, particularly when it came to the swap between the hyper-masculine Gabe and the almost offensively flamboyant Reggie.
“I am inspired by the polarized stereotypes and insecurities my characters represent. These characters help shed light on the insecurities we give so much power, over how we choose to interact with each other,” he says.
Man 1 and Woman 2 were the bulk of the characters, but that doesn’t mean the actors for Aaron and Casey didn’t face their own challenges. Michael Scott Johnson, who played Aaron, had to convince the audience that this plain, seemingly boring stock broker could hold his own against the fiery Casey.
“Aaron puts himself in a vulnerable position and even though he’s nervous and afraid of rejection, he jumps in feet first,” Johnson says.
A common theme between all cast members is that they want audiences to come to the Grand Theater for a laugh.
“It’s a fun, quick musical. Plus, almost everyone can relate to the roller-coaster of emotions you have on a first date,” says Thompson.
“First Date” is an unforgettable production and a must-see for any Salt Lake Community College student. The show will play through March 2.
Students receive a free ticket to a Grand production with a OneCard. Check out their website for more information.