First Date star Sara Chase on her Broadway debut, ‘Table 3’, and awkward first dates

Sara Chase

Sara Chase

Sara Chase’s Broadway debut in First Date has been a whirlwind adventure – and its just getting started! Each night at the Longacre Theatre she fills the shoes of characters like the hilarious Grandma Ida and Lauren, Casey’s [Krysta Rodriguez] well-meaning sister who can’t help but dole out dating advice. She’s also been seen onstage and onscreen in the likes of The Toxic Avenger off-Broadway, Arrested Development, The Office and The Other Guys. Sara spoke with Stage Door Dish about comedy, awkward dates and living out her childhood dreams.

SDD: You’ve been involved with First Date since before it was on Broadway, right? How did you first get involved?

SC: The actor Steve Rosen wrote his own show with David Rossmer, The Other Josh Cohen, which was a big hit at SoHo Playhouse. I was in The Other Josh Cohen, and Alan Zachary, who’s our composer, is Steve Rosen’s first cousin, so he came to see the show. He happened to be in town because his first musical was getting a first reading in New York City. The very next day, Megan Hilty, who was set to do the reading, had to drop out because she was doing something with David Foster and we have the same manager. So she said, ‘You can’t have Megan anymore but I think you’ll be really happy with Sara,’ and I don’t think they would have said yes if they hadn’t seen me the night before in their cousin’s show. I’ve been doing the readings of it for like three years now, in different parts, so now I’m the sister [Lauren], which didn’t exist in the first reading.

SDD: Wow, so was the show very different when it first started?

SC: All of the beats were still there, all the same jokes, but yeah, it was two acts. There are a lot of different songs now. It was very different. There was no sister. But all of the stuff that still really, really works, that was always there from the beginning.

SDD: What is it like bringing the show through the process of previews when you’re on Broadway? Do things generally change drastically?

SC: Well, Zac [Levi] and I, this is both of our first time being on Broadway, so we’re sort of doing it together. We’ve never done this before so we’re sort of playing it by ear. We can’t tell whether this is typical or not, we’re told everything we’re going through is not typical, in terms of the crowds at the stage doors and the response and it being sold out every night. But in terms of changes, we get a lot. Every single day, we come in at noon. We change at least ten things, some minor, some really major like putting in a whole new number, and then we go through the show at night. So we’re not only exhausted, but mentally, we are sometimes a little nervous. One little change effects the whole rhythm of the rest of the show and what your cue lines are and what the lighting is. We’ve been doing the same show for the last five days, and it feels so much more relaxed. So, it’s new to me, not to everyone else. Everyone else is in their like hundredth Broadway show.

SDD: What is it like experiencing it for the first time with some people who are very used to this process?

SC: I take my cues off of them. They are constant professionals. They’re like comedy robots, and I mean that in a good way! But in terms of me, I’m living out my six-year-old fantasies, so I’m just so busy gaping at everything. I used to go to stage doors illegally and ring the bell and just walk around backstage until I got caught – this was a pre-9/11 world – and now I’m like, ‘I’m here legally, I’m not trespassing!’ I get to go into the dressing room, there’s not one day that goes by that I’m not a fangirl freaking out to myself.

SDD: Does being at the stage door from the other side feel different than you thought it would when you were a kid?

SC: It’s totally different. I’m sort of shy by nature, and I have to sort of brace myself before I go out to the line outside the theater because it’s really overwhelming and difficult for a shy person like me. Zac Levi is so good at it, he thrives on it, it’s his nutrition. But every moment feels precious. Alan Zachary and I were saying the same thing, that we just pinch ourselves every time we talk to the theatre because this is what we’ve both been working for forever.

SDD: Do you have any quirky encounters with fans at the stage door?

SC: Well, one woman has seen it eight times. That’s pretty amazing. There’s one woman who, instead of signing a Playbill, had us sign her iPad, which is so cool. I’d never done that before. But honestly, I think that a lot of them come for Zac and then they stay for the rest of us, which is such a huge compliment. Everyone from the producers to the ushers are the nicest people alive and I think that it’s so infectious when you come see the show, from the beginning to end.

SDD: Do you have a favorite song in the show to perform?

SC: This is hard! “The Girl for You” is really fun, but I love the waiter’s song, because Kristoffer Cusick and I just slow dance the whole time and he says the funniest things in my ear. So I’ve learned to look forward to it. I think that’s the number one question we get asked at the stage door – “what do you guys talk about at Table 3?” – because we call ourselves Table 3. And we cannot say. It’s that scandalous.

SDD: Is it different every night? 

SC: Oh yeah. It’s either gossip, or he likes to give alternate lyrics in a dirty way, it’s really funny. We’re going try to pitch a web series to BroadwayWorld, “Don’t Trust the ‘B’s at Table 3.” And we might start live tweeting from Table 3 also, but only if the producers let us!

SDD: Would you say the show has been relatable in the process of exploring all the nuances of a first date?

SC: Other than arranged marriages, everyone who’s been a on a first or blind date can relate to this. Every single moment that we acknowledge in the show has 100% happened to me and almost everyone, from the pauses, to who’s going to pay the check, to staying on neutral topics and sizing up the other person. It’s so relatable. I think that’s why people really like it. We use such modern language and modern jokes that it’s unlike anything that’s on Broadway right now. It’s the show for people who don’t normally like to go to musicals. They approve. It’s one of those things you don’t have to drag your male spouse to – they want to come.

SDD: What is it like to be part of a brand new show with an original score?

SC: New musicals are hard. We always go around saying “Broadway’s hard,” but new musicals are definitely harder. It’s unproven and you don’t know what’s going to be funny and what’s not. Our book writer is from TV, and it feels very much like being on a set. It’s very collaborative. We all pitch jokes, we all say “this moment doesn’t work for me” or “I think this one needs a better joke.” I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a sitcom taping but they do a take, and then they change up the jokes and then they do a second take in front of a live audience. Every preview feels more like a take instead of a preview. It feels like we’re doing different takes of the same show. I would say its definitely more collaborative because it’s new and we’re all working toward the same goal, we want to make the best new musical out there. They’re really using previews to their advantage for sure, and they’re listening to what everyone’s saying. But it’s hard, for sure.

SDD: I hear the show is very involved in social media compared to a lot of other Broadway productions.

SC: Oh yeah. It’s awesome because that’s our audience, and that’s also the sensibility and the humor of the show. We talk about social media a lot in the show. We get more responses from Twitter than any other medium. It’s awesome. Social media is the wave of the future. I think people will start getting hired based on how many Twitter followers they have. I think they already do!

SDD: What is the most memorable first date moment you’ve experienced?

SC: This guy asked me to Disneyland when I was in LA doing a job, and he was like ‘let me valet park your car.’ I pull up to the valet, and his mom is the valet parker. I thought, ‘oh, that’s weird.’ A different member of his family was the operator of every ride we would go on, so by the end of the night I had met his entire family on the first date. He was also 21 and I was not at the time so it was really horrible. I couldn’t have driven away faster.

SDD: Have you always known you wanted to be a performer?

SC: Pretty much since the age of six when my dad showed me the movie Amadeus. I always knew I probably wasn’t going to be an optometrist, because I just clicked with music. Then I saw Meet Me In St. Louis and there was a little girl in the show, and I was like “I want to do what she’s doing.” It’s been an obsession ever since.

SDD: Have you had a moment so far as an actress that you would consider your most gratifying?

SC: I think it would have to be taking my bow at the first preview because that’s what I, under my definition, considered finally being in a Broadway show. I’m a theatre nerd and this is so special to me, but definitely arriving on that stage having completed my first show literally on Broadway was – I had to compose myself. Because that moment is thousands of auditions and heartbreak and tears and family supporting you and whatnot, and at that moment you can finally say ‘ah, it paid off.’

SDD: What is something about performing live that people would be surprised to know? 

SC: I think the audience sometimes thinks there’s an invisible wall where we can’t hear them or see them. They talk at us or to us or they have food, as if it’s a movie. I think people really forget that they are not watching a movie, and that as part of watching a live show, you are part of the live experience. I think sometimes they forget that we’re doing our job and we don’t go to their job and say ‘hey, you filled out that expense report real sloppy.’

SDD: Does the fact that First Date is a comedy bring an extra energy to the stage? Is it hard not to laugh sometimes at how funny the show is when you’re onstage?

SC: It’s really hard not to laugh! Especially like I was saying before, Kristoffer Cusick and I sit at that table when were not needed at the show, and the hardest part is not cracking up, especially when we’re supposed to be posing. He says the funniest things in the whole wide world. Comedy is so much lighter than doing a drama. We’re not doing Death of a Salesman here, we can joke around. Kris has squeezed their butts onstage when the audience couldn’t see. You can’t do that in a drama, because you just can’t.

SDD: Do you have a favorite character in the show?

SC: I think Grandma Ida, because its funny and I like over-the-top characters like that. But only if my quick change goes alright!

SDD: Is that stressful?

SC: Yes. It’s the most stressful part of the show. I have literally five seconds to put a wig, a gown and glasses on.

SDD: Is there a way to prep for that or is it just in the moment?

SC: It’s pre-set as well as it can be and its arranged as quickly as it can be with magnets, but it’s not a science all the time!

Bryce Ryness, Kate Loprest, Kristoffer Cusick and Sara Chase in 'First Date.'

Bryce Ryness, Kate Loprest, Kristoffer Cusick and Sara Chase in ‘First Date.’

SDD: Do you have any unusual hidden talents or hobbies?

SC: Putting my foot in my mouth, unintentionally.

SDD: Did you discover this accidentally?

SC: I am socially awkward. I think people expect me not to be because I have blonde hair and am onstage, but I couldn’t be worse in social situations.

SDD: Stage or screen?

SC: Stage.

SDD: Do you have a favorite word?

SC: Community!

SDD: What is your current obsession?

SC: Dance Moms. Shoot me.

SDD: If you could delete any song from existence, which song would you choose?

SC: I guess “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,” because it’s annoying.

SDD: Solid choice. What is the last great show that you saw onstage?

SC: I’ve been in LA for the last two years so this is tough! Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.

SDD: Who was the last person to make you feel starstruck?

SC: Don’t judge me, I saw Theresa Caputo from Long Island Medium at a restaurant in LA. I am such a reality TV junkie. I could see Angelina Jolie and not care, but if I saw one of my reality shows’ stars, I would totally freak out.

SDD: If you could trade places with anybody on Broadway, who would you choose?

SC: Good question! I would say Sutton Foster because she gets her pick of the litter at this point, and that would be really cool.

SDD: What is the funniest backstage moment you’ve witnessed while working on Broadway?

SC: My dresser during The Toxic Avenger found out she was pregnant in the middle of a show. She kept having to run away and throw up, and I have a deathly fear of vomit. So she was throwing up, and then there was someone holding a bucket offstage in case I threw up because she was throwing up.

SDD: Which Broadway star would you most like to have a drink with?

SC: Nathan Lane. I would love to know what makes Nathan Lane tick. He seems like he’s got a lot of layers going on. He’s a sad clown.

SDD: Describe yourself in five words or less.

SC: Quirky, loud, boisterous, thoughtful, compassionate.

About Claire H.

Writer, performer, picture-taker, New Yorker. Find me on Twitter at @Claire_Hannum.

Comments are closed.