NFCT’s “First Date,” A Beginning, and a Love Story

Chris Fretto proposed to Katie Smith at last fall's production of "Little Shop of Horrors"
“First Date” director Chris Fretto proposed to choreographer Katie Smith at last fall’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors”

The North Fork Community Theatre’s new production of “First Date,” opening this coming Thursday, Oct. 13, is a story we’ve all been through in the search for true love.

But for the show’s director, Chris Fretto, and his fiancée, choreographer Katie Smith, this show means a whole lot more.

The couple, who are due to be married just two weeks after “First Date” closes Oct. 30, became engaged on stage during the North Fork Community Theatre’s production last fall of “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Their lives together have been intertwined with both theater and dance, and with this play, which they saw together on Broadway on the anniversary of their own first date.

“We fell in love with it,” said Mr. Fretto of the play as he worked on building sets before rehearsal last Tuesday evening. “It’s very real. A lot of people can relate to it.”

The show is a musical comedy chronicling a blind date between Aaron (who has never gone out with a stranger) and serial romancer Casey.

This cast of seven includes Nicole Bianco as Casey and Sam Notaro as Aaron in the lead roles, with an ensemble of five who all play multiple roles: Laura Meade, Julia Pulick, Brendan Noble, Ralph D’Ambrose and Manning Dandridge.

“It’s not your typical musical,” said Mr. Fretto, who added that the broad variety of musical styles in the show helped set it apart. The pit orchestra even appears on stage for this production, masquerading as the band playing in the club where the action takes place.

The move to the stage opened up the space to the left of the audience where the pit orchestra usually sits, which for this production will be filled with the work of North Fork arial photographer Bridget Elkin, who is donating 30 percent of the proceeds from sales during the show to the NFCT’s renovation campaign.

“If you’ve ever been on a first date, you will connect with at least two things” in the show, Mr. Fretto added — from realizing too late that it’s a bad idea to talk about your exes on a first date to having a friend call to help you bail out if things are going badly.

“The hardest part for me was pulling myself out of it,” said Mr. Fretto. “I wanted to be in it so badly…. It’s the story of a geeky guy who gets involved with this edgy rocker chick. I can relate to it.”

Mr. Fretto says his love story is one that proves geeks can end up with great women.

He met Ms. Smith online, and didn’t know at first how much she enjoyed theater, which is one of his lifelong passions. She had been involved in theater as a kid, but by the time they met, she was devoted to teaching dance. Ms. Smith now owns Elite Dancers in Moriches.

“He’s so energetic and excited. He really wanted to propose to her on stage,” said NFCT treasurer and former president Mary Motto Kalich. “Theater is a big part of her life. He was a little worried about directing a show right before they get married, but his wife said ‘no problem. This is what you love.'”

It was Ms. Smith’s suggestion that they be married on stage at The Suffolk Theater in Riverhead, which played right into Mr. Fretto’s idea of a dream wedding.

Mr. Fretto has been involved with theater all over Long Island, and has brought in several actors from outside the North Fork for this production, along with several fine actors from NFCT’s large roster of talent.

“The North Fork Community Theatre is very much a family. There are a lot of hugs, and a feeling that ‘you’re one of us,'” he said. “A lot of theaters just make a show and move on.”

“First Date,” Mr. Fretto is hoping, will be a play you’ll remember for a while.

“It’s full of humor, but parts of it will make you cry,” he says. “And the music is catchy.”

“First Date” runs October 13 through 30 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 2:30 p.m..

Tickets are $25 and may be reserved by calling 631.298.NFCT (6328) or visiting www.nfct.com.

There will be an opening night reception on Thursday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. featuring Sannino Bella Vita wines and snacks by The Village Cheese Shop.

The show contains adult language and content; parental discretion is advised.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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