So the original plan for this evening was going to be a Speed Dating event. If New York is the Single Girl’s capital of the world, I figured there must be a dating event on almost every corner. However without lying about either my age or my religious persuasion, there was nothing available at short notice, and to be honest, after three months of painfully awkward dating events, I was unsure whether I wanted to spend one of my three nights in New York making polite conversation with yet more IT geeks, just ones with American accents for a change!
And so I decided to check out what was playing on Broadway, only to stumble upon the most fitting of musicals.
First Date, the Musical, opened on Broadway last month, and the first cast recording (which was released yesterday) is currently topping the iTunes album chart.
The show stars Zachary Levi, of Chuck fame, and Krysta Rodriguez, from the Musical-themed drama ‘Smash’, as an awkward blind date virgin, and a cynical, brash serial dater, on a painfully awkward first date.
The musical is set almost exclusively in a New York bar, where the two main characters Aaron and Casey, meet on a blind date arranged by Casey’s brother-in-law.
The premise is simple, yet delivered in a slick and amusing way. It can be hard to launch a fledgling musical, and I’ve seen a number of promising ideas fall at the first hurdle, however as something of a veteran of blind dates, the show hit all the key topics, and the numbers were catchy and wittily delivered.
As the date progressed, the characters stumbled through several recognisable issues which I’ve identified along my three month Dating adventure. The opening number is entitled ‘The One’, and was a cheeky, but realistic introduction to the world of online dating. Where people look completely different to their online photos, and you struggle to root out those with any potential from all the weirdos! I giggled along, thinking about my first ever Plenty of Fish date – whose idea of 6 foot 2 was far closer to 5 foot 10, and Canary Yellow’s awful referral of The Burlesque Dancer – a man who was shorter than me, almost ten years my senior, and who spent our date invading my personal space to ogle over the real burlesque dancers!
Next, the musical focussed on First Impressions. The way we all judge a book by its cover almost immediately, and the optimistic inner voice that hopes that maybe all isn’t quite as it seems. As the bartender on the stage removed Aaron’s tie, and ‘popped his collar’, I was reminded of my New York date – Date 29 – last night, and his custom-made suit. ‘You’re trying too hard’ the bartender chided. I couldn’t help smiling to myself, thinking the slightly geeky banker character Aaron looked pretty hot, and that I wouldn’t have any issues with him turning up on a date with me wearing that tie! When I was a teenager, I went on a date with a guy who wore Jesus sandals, with nail polish on his toes, and a bright yellow shirt with a tank top over the top covered in geometric patterns …. A shirt and tie is nothing!
The rather negative, over-confident Casey opened conversation with Aaron by calling him a ‘Blind Date virgin’, something he bantered back to by calling her a ‘Blind Date slut’ – a slur which cut a bit close to the bone after a comment my date on Saturday made about my challenge!
And then followed one of the most amusing (and recurring) parts of the musical. ‘The Bailout Song’ left on Casey’s answer-machine by her helpful gay best friend. Not only was his voice and comic timing perfect, but the premise hit the dating nail on the head. I’ve only once escaped from a date, and it was back when I was a teenager. I’ve stuck out even the worst dates on this Challenge, partly so I could tell you guys all about it, and also because I figure I owe it to the guys to give them the full benefit of the doubt, seeing as they’ve volunteered to help me with this challenge. However when I tweeted midway through Date Ten with Mr Twenty40 about him being rude to fellow travellers on the London Underground, it was actually my Date Number Two – The One with the Sign who texted me, offering me the use of the text message as an excuse to escape from the date!
From bailout calls, the date moved on to Religion. A pertinent topic given my ‘Search for The Christian’, the Boy About Town’s blogpost about why he would never date me (!), and my eventual date with the chosen Christian – Date 28 – The Voice.
And then came the ‘Awkward Pause’. Something I genuinely haven’t experienced on any of my Challenge Dates, however something which actually came up on my non-Challenge date last Saturday. It was with The Skype Date – a guy who I’d already had a ‘sort-of’ date with during this Challenge. We’d got on well over Skype, and decided to try to fit in a real date together before I travelled to the States for the final two dates. The only day I could do was my final night in England, so in order to give me time to pack, he agreed to meet me in my home village. I’d reassured him it wouldn’t be a ‘blog date’, as I was already on target for my 30, and it wasn’t really a blind date, as we’d had the Skype Date and been chatting for two weeks since. Perhaps it was knowing I wouldn’t be writing about the date, or it was nerves because of my recent dating history … or maybe it was just because up until that point we’d seemed to be getting on really well …. whatever the reason, The Skype Date completely lost it. Conversation was completely painful, and I realised one of the issues was that he wasn’t actually asking me any questions. I would ask a question, he would answer, and then he would go silent. And we would repeat. It was tangibly painful, and both of us were squirming in our seats. Every now and again he would comment ‘well at least you’re still laughing’, simply drawing attention to the fact I was filling dinner with nervous laughter. In a moment of panic, much like Aaron’s comment to Casey, he referred to my challenge as ‘slutting around’, and that was it. Dating Game Over!
On stage Aaron and Casey’s date continued, with reflections on advice their friends and family might give, and demons from their dating closets appearing. Aaron was dealing with his ‘ex’, Casey was too busy comparing Aaron to all the guys she’d previously dated. As Casey confidently ran through her rules of dating, I grinned to myself again. Her first rule was not to talk about other dates too early in the night. A rule I’ve probably broken with every single Challenge date who has known about the 30 Dates by 30 blog, because my best and worst dates ALWAYS comes up in conversation! Whether the guy wants tips on dating venues in London, or simply wants to laugh over my worst dating experiences.
As Casey went moony-eyed over the bad boys of her past, I was reminded of a conversation a friend made over lunch just this afternoon. If a guy acts too keenly, the silly girl voice inside your head automatically wonders if you can do better! And the minute a guy plays remotely hard to get, suddenly he’s all the more attractive. It’s The Game 101!
One of my favourite parts of the date was the reference to Google. Aaron admits to stalking Casey pre-date – a reality of modern dating. Google is personified – even given lashes over her double-Os to make her look like a person! And she makes us all face up to the realities of what you can discover on the internet about someone with a few short clicks.
As Casey and Aaron moved from dinner to drinks, and they each worry about what their food order says about them to their potential suitor, I actually realised haven’t thought twice about what food I’ve ordered in front of my dates! Why pretend to be someone you’re not? Though watching them split their dinners did remind me of trying to switch plates in the dark at Dans Le Noir with The Enigma on Date 12.
Casey makes a bold move, and decides point blank that the date is going nowhere and they should just be friends – a hilarious scene involving the other female cast members announcing exactly what the ‘friend zone’ means! It resonated most with me in relation to my non-Challenge date on Saturday, where after a dinner which I felt had gone awfully, but The Skype Date seemed to think had gone pretty well, I had to very blatantly let him down and make it clear that nothing was going to happen between us. The word awkward was used a lot in the musical, and it truly is a word which underpins most first dates.
Aaron is still grieving over his ex. A woman who left him at the Altar. And Casey is able to help him achieve one thing – Closure. Inadvertently providing him with an Eclipse Effect, even though at this point, this is completely not her intention. It’s interesting how different guys I’ve dated have asked me different things about The Henley Boy – the very reason I began this crazy dating challenge. Some have wanted to know all about him, quizzing me for insider details of his phone call to me the other week. Others have wanted to hear nothing about him, treating him like an ex of mine, and simply trying to outshine him. It did amuse me last night, on my New York date, when Date 29 – The New Yorker came out with ‘so I’ve heard about ‘Henley” midway through conversation, and I realised he was talking about the guy, not the town! And so Henley Boy truly is internationally renowned!
Aaron also has another relationship ghost. Casey stumbles upon the death of his mother, and the scene and accompanying number are heartfelt and touching. As someone who has been orphaned, I often struggle with when to tell someone about my parents’ death. Often it’s hard to disguise the use of the past tense when talking about family, and sometimes it really is a lot simpler to get it upfront as quickly as possible, however it’s easy to forget that it’s not an everyday thing for other people in the way that it has been my everyday life for the past ten years. Last night The New Yorker was really sensitive, but casual, when he asked me about their death, and I appreciated his candid approach – something The One with The Sign and The Superhero Alter-Ego were both also really good with.
And then come the two final dances of the date.
First there is ‘The Check’ … or what we in England call the bill. It’s been really interesting observing different guys’ dating etiquette regarding this. Some have point blank insisted on paying – no matter how steep the bill. Others have relied on me paying in advance, and then skimped on even paying their share of the date. I did notice that when I really don’t like a date, I will adamantly insist on paying my entire share of everything, not wanting to give them any form of leverage or wrong idea.
And then the second of the two dances … The Kiss. For those of us with some dating decorum, it’s the perfect end to a good first date. My first date with The Enigma ended with a rather cute kiss on the sidewalk, after wandering around London rather aimlessly in the early hours of the morning. The Fresh Prince swooped in and kissed me on our way back to Green Park Tube station, and The Big Kid kissed me during one of the most unromantic movies I’ve ever watched (American Psycho!). There has been at least one other date who I really wish had kissed me at the end of the date, and then one date, who acted like he was about to go in for the kill, and I deftly stepped out of range!
First Date the Musical, was realistic, romantic, and dead on the money when it comes to the awkward scenario of a realistic blind date. The comedy was succinct and well-timed, and the creative use of the nuclear cast was imaginative and effective. The story had believable depth, and Aaron in particular (for me at least) had a relatable backstory which I felt was dealt with really well. It was modern and fresh – the references to Google stalking, and online dating were right on the money, and, as you can see from my notes above, every section of the hour and a half long musical was directly relatable to blind date experiences … of which I’ve had an awful lot in the last three months!
The one thing I will say, is even with his geeky glasses, and awful first date chat, it was impossible not to fall for Zachary Levi in his role as BDV (Blind Date Virgin) Aaron. He was the kind of first date girls dream of – a hottie who doesn’t actually realise he’s hot, and who manages to balance nerdy, with sociable, fun and caring.
Yes, I know he’s a character, and one assisted by Levi’s Hollywood good looks. But I defy any girl to watch the Musical and not want to date him by the end of the hilariously awkward first date.
And then the icing on the cake …. The cast came out of the ‘Date Gate’ at the end of the show, standing on 48th Street for the best part of an hour signing autographs and taking photos. I laughed with Krysta Rodriguez about the Mandarin character her character has etched on her wrist (I have a real one tattooed on mine).
And then I chatted with some of the cast members, including Zac Levi, about my crazy Challenge, the way it had brought me to New York, and how cleverly relatable the musical was.
It wasn’t a date, but I had a great night, and one I would thoroughly recommend to anyone visiting New York and looking for a fresh new Broadway Show. The cast were pitch perfect, funny and really self-effacing, and I definitely came away with a new celebrity crush! Fingers crossed Date 30 is as hot as my Date 29 and a half! 😉
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx