First Date is a new and aggressively stupid Broadway musical that follows a young man and woman through a blind dinner-date. Even its lone moment of fun is embarrassing. That moment arrives when the female lead’s phone rings, the call goes to voicemail, and one of the show’s supporting actors leaps to the footlights to sing a song called “Bailout.” The actor, wearing loud blue glasses and a granny scarf, is supposed to be the female lead’s gay best friend, and for two minutes he embodies every tragic, swishy caricature of gay manhood yet imagined. He prances, minces, and lisps—and, of course, he is alone on this night, his sole joy in life being a chance to play a walk-on part in his female bestie’s romances. He has called, he explains to the voicemail, to give her a handy excuse to ditch her date, should ditching be necessary. (To wit: “Bailout.”) The scene would have been dumb and dated 20 years ago; now it’s merely baffling. But “Bailout” is fast and rhythmically interesting, and actor Kristoffer Cusick graces it with more verve and ‘tude than it deserves. He works hard for our applause, and earns it. Barely.
No actorly exertions can salvage the rest of the show at the Longacre Theatre. Its minor failings are too numerous to list, but a sampling must include: generic and lifeless “punk” rock, unfunny and obvious Jew jokes, and a plot reliant on a nonsensical deus ex machina employing a boombox and a lonely waiter. But what truly ruins First Date is the failure of its creators—three men, as it happens—to create plausible protagonists. We are told again and again that Aaron (Zachary Levi), the male half of the date, is a “nice” guy: stable, sweet, and safe. Yet when his date, Casey (Krysta Rodriguez), after an hour of cocktails and convo, suggests that maybe she and he should “just be friends,” nice guy Aaron causes a scene and tries to walk out on the bill. He deserves Casey, you see; at least, he deserves to fuck her. The righteousness of his anger is confirmed when Casey—allegedly a confident and with-it “bad” girl—demurely apologizes and tries to shape up. So the evening proceeds peaceably, if a little rape-ishly. Casey should have bailed out. So should we all.