We’d gone one block in ten minutes. Traffic was at a standstill, and our taxi driver, even with his most valiant efforts, couldn’t snake his way though the parking lot of Park Avenue.
I avoided looking at the time. First Date was going to be my first Broadway show, and we had to make our way to Longacre Theater on West 48th Street. Two more blocks south, a little over four blocks west. Caitlin checked her phone again and sighed, and I saw. Ten minutes. Ten minutes until 7pm, and we were stuck.
Strangely, I wasn’t that worried. Caitlin looked like she was going to have a heart attack, and I guess my unconscious decision was to sit on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. I found myself smiling and making jokes.
One block and $15 later, we bailed in the middle of an intersection in true New York fashion and raced to the theater. At times we broke into short jogs, only to be stopped in dense crowds milling around. Rockefeller Center, with its beautiful Christmas tree, was attracting throngs of tourists, and the block in front of The Rock was closed to traffic. 6th Avenue, which we had to cross, was barricaded by traffic cops controlling the flow of cars and pedestrians.
Times Square was a blur, as was Broadway. “It’s up there,” Caitlin declared.
“Where?” I was out of breath.
“The red and white sign, down there across the street.” We still had a block to go. It was 7:10pm.
Under the twinkling lights of the Longacre marquee, we finally, breathlessly, flung open the door to the theater and greeted the woman who stood as we came in. We were over 15 minutes late, but she was kind and quickly led us to the stairway. Laughter and singing erupted from the auditorium as we climbed the stairs to the balcony.
Our seats were in the center of the balcony. In the front row. We were those people, apologizing quietly as we desperately tried to make our way to our seats in the narrowest aisle ever.
As quietly as she could, Caitlin, who’d seen the show before, whispered the few details I’d missed. I nodded, wide-eyed with pure happiness. Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez, who played the leads, were bantering in the spotlight below. We were immediately giggling, and the entire audience was enraptured.
First Date is about a mild-mannered Jewish 30-something, Aaron, on a blind date with Casey, who’s far more adventurous and likes bad boys. Supporting actors play out the inner dialogues each character has with friends and family members. One of my favorite scenes had Aaron and Casey telling each other about themselves, and Casey tells him that she has a son. Aaron reacts, and Casey erupts in laughter and tells him she was just kidding. After he expresses his relief, Casey grows quiet and shares that she was lying and did, in fact, have a son. Stuttering, Aaron apologizes, and Casey cracks up again. Aaron, completely overwhelmed by the joke, throws up his hands and yells an expletive.
It’s a scene that sounds played-out and tired as I try to describe it, but his reaction to her joke made the audience break into delighted laughter and applause. The entire show was light and energetic, the script quick and witty, and I especially loved when Levi’s character was frustrated. In the final number, Levi was bounding around the stage, and Caitlin’s high compliment – calling him the next Dick Van Dyke – was proven true. We all clapped at punchlines delivered during songs and laughed uproariously at the banter. It was the perfect first Broadway show.
I’m a big fan of Krysta’s after first seeing her on the TV show Smash. She’s amazing. Admittedly, though, the main draw for me was Zachary Levi. I didn’t watch Chuck but, oddly enough, love watching Chuck bloopers on YouTube. That’s where I first saw Levi’s personality and became a big fan of his. I also love Tangled, but who doesn’t?
Sadly, there was no intermission; the show was short, but had it been much longer, it would’ve dragged. The cast bowed, and then Levi announced a fundraiser they were participating in for Broadway Cares. Buy a signed Playbill, a signed poster, or pony up for a photo with the cast on the stage. I bought a signed poster for $60.
Caitlin and I wandered around the theater taking pictures.
We finally exited and waited on the street by the stage door to thank the cast as they left. A big, friendly man stood outside the door and assured all of us who were waiting that both Zachary and Krysta would sign autographs and take pictures with all of us. For the 20 of us waiting outside in the cold, it was worth it.
He burst out the stage door with music playing from the speaker he was carrying and an ear-to-ear smile on his face. Zach was tall. I was taken aback by just how different he seemed standing in front of me, as opposed to on TV or on stage. He talked to our group and thanked us for coming to the show. As tourists saw that a celebrity was signing autographs, a few came up to take pictures of their own. Zach hid behind the man guarding the door and exclaimed that he was only there for the people who’d seen the show.
I didn’t get anything signed, since I had the poster, but both Caitlin and I took pictures with him. It was my first time to be around a celebrity, and it was unreal. We thanked him and then waited for Krysta, who was equally gracious and kind, but not as ebullient as Zach.
Once we’d said our thank yous, Caitlin and I set out to find a cab on 8th Avenue. I was sad to leave while Zach and Krysta were still talking to the rest of the group, but it made no sense to stay out in the cold just to fangirl.
As we tried to hail a cab, Krysta and a couple of her friends eventually walked past. I exchanged a look with Caitlin; the look on her face said This is totally normal while the look on mine consisted of exclamation points.
Caitlin laughed. “Welcome to New York!”