City Circle to virtually present musical comedy ‘First Date’ for first show of the year

Premiering virtually on Feb. 26, City Circle Theatre Company will showcase ‘First Date: A Musical Comedy.’ The show takes audiences on a musical journey through a couple’s blind date.


Photo of Robert Kemp and Jessica Murillo who star in “First Date: A Musical Comedy.” Contributed.

Tatiana Plowman, Arts Reporter

Bringing the love right into Coralville and Iowa City homes, City Circle Theatre Company will present “First Date: A Musical Comedy” from Feb. 26 to 28.

First Date premiered on Broadway on Aug. 8, 2013, performed by Krysta Rodriguez and Zachary Levi. Despite running only six months on Broadway, the show received positive feedback after its closure. Some of the most popular songs include heartfelt ballad, “Safer” and the upbeat opening group number, “The One.”

The show centers around New Yorkers Casey and Aaron, played by real-life couple Jessica Murillo and Robert Kemp, who go on a blind date set up by their well-intentioned friends. The cast sings and dances their way through the ups and downs of a blind date. Audiences can look forward to hearing incredible vocals and crisp harmonies sung by City Circle’s cast within each song.

Gorgeous white panels frame the City Circle stage on each side. Beautiful vines surround the backdrop, and stone flooring adds exciting details to the set. Mauve-accented windows and tablecloths round out the production design done by Director Elizabeth Tracy and Production Designer Karen Mills.

The lighting design, by Benjamin Stuben Farrar, brings out the emotions of each scene. Spotlighting each character at significant moments and utilizing colors such as blue during sad moments further pulls the audience into the story. Twinkling fairy lights also help create the romantic restaurant atmosphere.

Tracy said she altered her directing style to fit the theater’s new approach to filming shows. Four cameras set up in the theater house captured the performance at different angles, allowing for the side stages to be just as powerful as centerstage.

“I imagined that the actors were performing in the round instead of proscenium,” Tracy said. “It took the cast a bit to get used to playing for the camera angle and hitting their mark precisely.”

True passion and chemistry are shown between Murillo and Kemp throughout the entire performance. Their duet, “Something That Will Last” is a heartfelt and emotional final number that exemplifies their romance.

“Working with a real-life couple was wonderful. They came to rehearsal full of ideas and always prepared,” Tracy said. “The rehearsal process was much smoother because they were able to work together outside of the rehearsal space.”

Rounding out the cast are ensemble members Larry Newman, Madison Auge, and Marty Reichert. Each actor takes on multiple characters within the show. While the musical was initially written for seven cast members, City Circle selected only five to better follow COVID-19 guidelines during the rehearsal process. For many members of the cast, “First Date: A Musical Comedy” is their first time fully collaborating on a staged show during the pandemic.

“Getting to safely collaborate with people who love theatre as much as I do is so wonderful,” Auge said. “During these crazy times, I love having time set aside to just enter a new world and be surrounded by amazing people.”

Wearing basic blacks, ensemble members frequently change costumes to distinguish between their different characters, each featuring eccentric, colorful layers.

RELATED: Riverside’s ‘Will Power’ reimagined for virtual classrooms

When recording the show for audiences, the cast felt challenged to perform with no audience feedback. In order for the cameras to fully capture the vocals cleanly, crew members who would normally be applauding and reacting to help boost the cast members had to remain silent during recording.

“Performing without an audience has definitely had its challenges, especially because as actors we are so used to feeding off of the audience’s energy,” Newman said. “I wish we had a live audience, but I care more about keeping the community safe.”

Tickets for First Date: A Musical Comedy are sold at the Coralville Arts website.