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Review: First Date is fun, funny and totally relatable

Have you ever been on a blind date? The good, the bad, the ugly--the funny--of the experience is onstage now at the Mayfield.

Most of us remember a first date--always awkward, sometimes cringey, sometimes surprisingly wonderful. The Broadway musical version of a first date, playing now at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre, is only the last of these--wonderful-- thanks to a saucy script and talented players who bring musical gusto to a New York bistro and take the audience along for the ride.

Kate Ryan directs First Date, a witty, 90-minute one-act (with book by Austin Winsberg and Music/lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner) that tells the tale of Aaron and Casey, meeting in a New York bar/restaurant for a blind date. Aaron (Ron Pederson) is a nerdy, suit and tie kind of 30-something who hasn't been on a date since his Jewish fiancée left him standing alone under the chuppah. 

He's not all the way over that, as visions of said fiancee keep popping up for this BDV (blind date virgin). Casey, (Julia McLellan), dubbed a BDS (blind date slut) by awkward Aaron, is a free-spirit; a gal who likes bad boys but is secretly a sensitive soul and wanna-be photographer who works in an art gallery and has had plenty of therapy to feel her feelings. This is an odd couple, to be sure. Can it work?

The supporting cast (Michael Cox, Sarah Dowling, Jason Hardwick, Robbie Towns, Patricia Zentilli), are mostly in the pair's imaginations, coming to life around Aaron and Casey as they have a drink and make small talk on their first date. Fun moments from the energetic bunch include the bailout call from Casey's gay best friend (Robbie Towns is a hoot), Aaron's best friend frustratingly advising him to stop thinking about his ex and go for it with this hottie, and equally aggravated advice from Casey's married sister (an always enjoyable Zentilli), who reminds her of how she ruins her chances with decent guys, and that her eggs aren't getting any younger. There's even a good old-fashioned tap number, which delighted the audience on opening night, courtesy of the waiter (Hardwick). A Broadway musical should always have a tap number, don't you figure?

The Mayfield's artistic director Van Wilmott describes this first production of 2023 as funny, touching and something we've all been through--a show that had Broadway audiences laughing and cheering for characters that bring baggage from their past relationships, plus fears and weird habits to this possible new coupling. And director Ryan (who is deft at bringing quirky, small-cast productions to Edmonton stages) has likewise put together a great company of artists for Edmonton's take on First Date. Lucky us!

Pederson, known to Edmonton audiences mostly as a fantastic improviser (and part of Gordon's Big Bald Head, for Fringe fans), is a sympathetic, stressed-out Aaron. His physicality and frenetic way with dialogue (and lovely singing voice too, as it turns out), is the perfect contrast to the more centred (though feisty) energy of McLellan's badass Casey. Local audiences will have seen McLellan's dynamite turn as Doralee (Dolly Parton's character) in The Citadel's recent production of 9 to 5, and the accomplished actor/songstress is just as captivating here. Her vocals alone are gorgeous: Together, McLellan and Pederson bring a great chemistry and next level talent to the Mayfield stage. 

I like this more edgy, modern tale the Mayfield has brought to audiences for a Valentine-esque-, spring offering--I'll take more of it, please. Though I always appreciate a live band with a Mayfield production, musical director Jennifer McMillan makes this one work by adding live keyboards (she and Paul Lamoureux) to the tracks. This time around, it's the script and singing that shine.

Whether you're new to dating (you'll relate) or just remembering how it is to meet someone new, there's much to enjoy with First Date. For a romantic evening out, or just a good laugh with friends, this show's a winner. 

First Date runs through March 26. For tickets:, 780-483-4051