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Review: Mini-musical 'Date of a Lifetime' funny,fast-paced evening out at NJ Rep

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Ding! Speed dating - at the sound of the bell you have just five minutes to decide if the person opposite you might be your potential life mate. It's also the subject of a new mini-musical now playing through April 6 at New Jersey Rep in Long Branch. DATE OF A LIFETIME introduces us to urban thirty-somethings Katie and Marvin – both full of neurotic trepidation at attending 'Rotate-A-Date' in the basement of Manhattan's Symphony Space. During their 'date' (five minutes to them, 90 intermission-less minutes to us), Katie and Marvin imaginatively muse on what their courtship might be like – from first date to last rites. The result is almost as if I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE were speed dating THE LAST 5 YEARS.

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Director and choreographer Marlo Hunter takes the term 'speed dating' literally. The musical is staged at a fast and furious pace that has even Broadway veterans Jamie LaVerdiere (Marvin) and Trisha Rapier (Katie) breathless and breaking a sweat. The book by Carl Kissin has some timely and witty observations on mating and dating – all presented in the future tense (“And then you'll say...”). For local appeal, there's also the obligatory Jersey jokes, including a reference to Chris Christie and 'bridgegate' – the second on NJ Rep's stage this season.

The songs by Kissin and Robert Baumgartner, Jr., range from sketchy to sensational, especially one sung by Coney Island-loving Katie that analogizes courtship to a roller coaster. Hunter is smart to keep things moving since the future tense scenarios rarely slow down long enough for us to get to know the real Marvin and Katie. For that reason, Katie's version of their relationship seems a bit more satisfying – if only because hers takes up the second half of the evening when the pace inevitably slows down and allows the talented Rapier to invest some much-needed sentiment into the proceedings.

The functional unit set by Jessica Parks helps the show move swiftly from scene to scene, with accompanist and musical director Daniel Rein ensconced in full view upstage center. From time to time Rein gets into the action, too, but mostly manages to remain neatly inconspicuous. DATE OF A LIFETIME (a rare musical offering for the intimate NJ Rep) seems just the ticket for 'date night' – a light, funny, and fast-paced evening out! Ding!

Reviewed by Michael T.Mooney March 8, 2014

(papermoon4@aol.com)

Performances are Thursdays, Fridays at 8:00 pm; Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm; and Sundays at 2:00 pm and select performances at 7:00pm.

Tickets are $42; Discounts are available for seniors, students, and groups of 10 or more. NJ Rep is a year-round, professional, non-profit theater located at 179 Broadway in Long Branch only minutes from the Jersey Shore. Free on-site parking is available and there is easy access from NJ Transit (North Jersey Coast Line) and Academy Buses.

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