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Originally published March 7, 2013 at 8:16 PM | Page modified March 8, 2013 at 2:23 PM

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‘First Date’ gets a shot at Broadway

The sweet, successful musical “First Date,” a hit coproduction of ACT and 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, will be on a Broadway stage this summer.

Seattle Times theater critic

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“First Date,” a new musical that debuted at Seattle’s ACT Theatre in 2012, has a date this summer with Broadway.

An irreverent and romantic dissection of a blind date, from the contrasting perspectives of a single man and woman meeting for the first time, the show was a runaway hit in Seattle as a coproduction of ACT and the 5th Avenue Theatre. It received four 2012 Seattle Times Footlight Awards.

Written by Austin Winsberg with music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, “First Date” is slated to begin preview performances at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre on July 9 and open on Aug. 4.

And it isn’t 5th Avenue’s first assignation with Broadway: The company has become a major contributor, producing tryout runs of seven shows that eventually went on to the Great White Way, including top Tony Award winners “Hairspray” and “Memphis.”

On the other hand, “First Date” marks the first time ACT, one of Seattle’s leading resident companies, has sent a work to Broadway. “It means a tremendous amount,” said ACT artistic director Kurt Beattie. ”So much good work is done in this town. It’s great when something that emerged here, from the ground up, has been recognized and given a shot (in New York).”

“First Date” was also the first fully produced musical from its young creators. Winsberg has worked mainly in TV, recently as a producer-writer for the hit series “Gossip Girl.” The team of Zachary and Weiner has written many songs for animated film and online projects, and for Disney cruise shows. (Currently, they are working on “Secondhand Lions,” a new musical based on a Michael Caine film, which premieres at 5th Avenue in September.)

5th Avenue producing and artistic head David Armstrong said that when he and associate artistic director Bill Berry initially read the script for “First Date,” they were struck by “how fresh and funny it was. Very rarely do you find yourself laughing at every page. We later found that the show’s concept appealed equally to 65-year-olds and 25-year-olds. Everyone has been on a date, and had anxieties about it.”

“The show really articulates the difficulties young professional people have in finding meaningful relationships,” said Beattie. He noted that a meaningful partnership has developed between ACT and 5th Avenue, who are presenting joint projects annually. (Their coproduction of Broadway’s “Grey Gardens” starts previews at ACT on March 16.)

On Broadway, “First Date” will again be directed by Berry, who helmed it here. Josh Rhodes will be the choreographer, and David Gallo the scenic designer. Casting will be announced later.

The New York version has another Seattle connection: The lead producer is Junkyard Productions, whose partners include longtime 5th Avenue supporters and local philanthropists Marleen and Kenny Alhadeff. The group previously produced “Memphis” on Broadway, after a successful tryout run at the 5th Avenue.

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

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