Review: 'First Date' by Goshen Players

Nancy Sasso Janis

OnStage Connecticut Critic / Connecticut Critics Circle

“All I know is, in this moment,
My past is just my past.
Right now I can't help but wonder
If this could be the something that will last…” - “Something That Will Last” from ‘Blind Date’

Way up in Goshen, CT - Goshen Players, Inc. took assistant director John Ozerhoski’s suggestion to produce the musical comedy ‘First Date’ with book by Austin Winsberg and music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner. I know this because he shared this background information on his WZBG radio program ‘Backstage with Johnny O.’ He saw the Broadway production with his wife Rebecca Russo and thought it would be a great little musical for the Goshen stage. 

‘First Date’ has a book by Austin Winsberg with music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner. The musical is a real-time blind date experience that runs the gamut from thrills to chills as this couple gets to know each other, and it brings the audience along for the crazy ride. A stellar cast of seven actors bring the 22 characters to life. So Aaron and Casey are actually on their first date at the restaurant, but we also meet protective friends, a meddling grandmother, a neurotic ex-girlfriend, an uptight sibling and even one nightmare of an imaginary child. The memorable music and a truly hilarious script make for an upbeat and very fast-paced musical with an off-beat, Off-Broadway feel that was so much fun. I enjoyed every minute of this show!

Dan Checovetes of Southington directed this small but wonderfully talented group of actors who had “no ensemble of actors to get lost in, and no where on the stage to hide.” Each one did stand out on their own and impressed everyone with their singing and comedic timing during their ninety minutes onstage with no intermission. Jim Luurtsema of Torrington conducted the pit band and played keyboard, Scott Stanchfield was on keyboard, Mike Conway on guitar, Matt Belliveau on keys/guitar, Matt Albert on bass and Scott Kellogg on drums. Kate Luurtsema was the show’s producer. 

Rob Girardin traveled from Southington to play the role of Aaron to perfection. I have seen this actor as Buddy Holly in Landmark’s ‘The Buddy Holly Story,’ Captain Walker in The Arts at Angeloria’s ‘Tommy’ and Dr. Madden in ‘Next to Normal’ at the Warner and he is such a natural on any stage. It was a treat to see him show off his comedic ability in this piece and I look forward to seeing him again after his customary three year break. Emily Diedrich of Middlebury, last seen as Tood in ‘The Cover of Life’ with Phoenix Stage Company, was excellent in the role of Casey.

Jackie DeMaio of Glastonbury made her Goshen debut as Woman#2 and played the ex-girlfriend among others. Joe Guttadauro of Litchfield (Patsy in ‘Spamalot’ in Thomaston) almost stole the show as Man #2 when he played the gay best friend. Southington High School English teacher Eric Lindblom covered various roles as Man #1.

Katie Brunetto, an English teacher at Northwestern Regional HS almost done with her MAT, was fabulous as Casey’s sister and Aaron’s Jewish grandmother and the rest of the roles of Woman #1. Jimmy Donohue (Barfee in ‘Spelling Bee’ and Seymour in ‘Little Shop’ in Goshen) had me in stitches for most of his takes on the roles of Man #3. Whether serving food and drinks as the waiter or thumping the Bible as Casey’s father, he was at his comedic best in this show. 

Mr. Checovetes did the fantastic lighting design and along with Dave Boscarino designed the restaurant set, while Devon Richtmeyer did the authentic New York set dressing. Joe McCann of Torrington, the husband of Holly McCann who just worked in the pit at Notre Dame in West Haven, was in charge of sound design. I saw stage manager Ed Wilczak walking around with a headset; he lists among his hobbies binge watching ‘The Amazing Race.’

Goshen Players had been around for 69 years and is always looking for volunteers. Next up for Mr. Ozerhoski is directing the Goshen Players spring production of ‘Sylvia’ and I will be discussing it with him on the air!

Who was at this sold out performance? Theatre royalty! I saw Josh Viltrakis, CJ Barber, Beckie Wallace, Michele Alicky, Laura Zimmerman, Diane Magas, L. Nagle, Marissa Perry, John Carter, Brian Fortin Carter, Moses Beckett, Michelle Gotay, Ashley McLeod, Chrissy Flynn, Agnes Dann, Brian Dann, Courtney Chute Chenkus and Mary Beth Chute...and I am sure I missed some others!

This show is destined for my yearly top ten list so don’t miss it. There are some words that could not be heard on WZBG and some adult humor. ‘First Date’ runs through April 9 at the Old Town Hall at the rotary in Goshen.

Pictured: Rob Girardin, Emily Deitrich Photo by Heather Boscarino