SD Union Tribune Preview: ‘First Date’ ready for first fling at Horton Grand – James Hebert

 In Off-Broadway

‘First Date” gets its first local dates starting this week, as San Diego Musical Theatre stages the area premiere of the Broadway-tested musical comedy.

It’s not the first go-round for SDMT at downtown’s Horton Grand, which the growing company added as its second performance space last year.

But it’s the first more or less full-scale musical at the Gaslamp Quarter venue for SDMT, which does its biggest shows at the Spreckels Theatre a few blocks away. (The 2016 holiday show “Miracle on 34th Street” at the Horton relied mostly on solo piano and Foley effects rather than an orchestra.)

And to stage “First Date,” the theater has brought in a director who’s not only an experienced hand with musicals, but seems to be working on a dozen of them at once. That’s J. Scott Lapp, the San Diego-bred artist who’s the artistic chief of Temecula’s Barn Stage Co. but also does freelance work on productions here and around the country.

Among Lapp’s recent projects have been the locally developed musical “Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical,” which won a key award at the New York Musical Festival last summer and is due back there for a full production in August; and “Prince of Egypt,” on which he served as associate director to the high-profile Scott Schwartz.

It was while working on another show with Schwartz, “Secondhand Lions,” that Lapp met composer-lyricists Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, who also scored “First Date.”

Now he’s reunited with the pair (or at least their work) at SDMT on “First Date,” which had a six-month Broadway run in 2013-14.

Lapp says the show, which focuses on a couple meeting for the first time on a blind date, is “just kind of a blast from the beginning. And (there are) all these characters who pop up during the night — a scheming ex, overbearing parents. Everyone knows these types.”


The show stars Joshua Cavanaugh and Cassandra Nuss as the central couple; Zackary Scot Wolfe, Lauren King Thompson, Jonathan Sangster, Lindsay Joan and John Massey make up the ensemble.

And those last five have a whole lot on their plate.

“The tricky part is the entire show is set in this restaurant,” says Lapp. “Our five ensemble members play anywhere between three and seven characters (apiece). And all of them appear and change character right before your eyes.”

Lapp likens the show’s quick-shifting, high-energy vibe to the musical “Murder for Two” — yet another show he was worked on around the country.

And those who appreciate a little schadenfreude with their stage fare won’t be disappointed at what the “First Date” couple has to face, adds Lapp.

“It’s fun to see what happens as disaster strikes.”

Did you know?

San Diego Musical Theatre is teaming with the Scripps Women’s Heart Center as its charity partner for “First Date.”

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