Have you ever been on a blind date? Even if the answer to that question is no, it’s easy to understand the internal pressures that arise when faced with the prospect of a new relationship. Theatre UCF’s production of the 2013 Broadway musical First Date explores the rollercoaster of emotions that overwhelm individuals on their journey to find love.
When it came down to selecting UCF’s first in-person musical since the COVID-19 pandemic, director Earl D. Weaver found First Date to be a perfect match.
“We were looking for a small cast show for this semester,” Weaver said. “I was aware of this show from hearing many of my students sing songs from it in my classes. When I read the script and listened to the music, I found the show very charming and relative for our time now…especially as we all start to get back to in-person connections with people.”
First Date follows the mismatched blind date of Aaron, a tightly wound, conservative banker looking for a meaningful connection, and Casey, an atheist artist with a history of attraction to the bad boys of the dating world. However, in exposing all the reasons why these characters are not a perfect match, this musical shows that people are so much more than their first impressions.
Sydney Whittaker, a senior in the BFA Stage Management program and the production stage manager for First Date, talked about how the show captures the authenticity of awkward beginnings in a way many productions fall short.
“It’s in those tiny human moments – a touch, a glance too long, an open conversation – that really make something that will last,” Whittaker shared. “I don’t think there is such a thing as the one, there are just humans trying to figure out the world and maybe have someone by your side doing it.”
Indeed, the honesty of the script is what helped create an incredibly productive rehearsal space, with a lot for the director to play with in terms of characterization and development.
“All the actors really grasped their characters well and found an immediate connection to them,” Weaver explained. “That made my job as a director easy, because the actors brought a lot of substance to the rehearsal process.”
Part of the magic of exploring relationships on the stage is that the actors and creative team also get the opportunity to strengthen their bonds with one another while creating something beautiful.
“I watch people go from classmates to friends. I think this show being on that human level really highlighted the actor’s relationships with each other,” Whittaker said. “I walked into the lower lobby where the actors were hanging out…and the conversations I heard aren’t those you have with co-workers, it’s those you have with longtime friends. As a stage manager, things like that warm my heart. I am hoping that whoever sits in this audience on any given night can feel that comraderie.”