Fans came to the first tour stop of “The Bachelor Live on Stage” in Mesa on Thursday for all the right reasons.
Wine in hand, the Valley’s Bachelor Nation spent Galentine’s Day night at the 1,600-seat Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center watching a live two-hour version of “The Bachelor,” starring Scottsdale’s Fabrice Lapierre, a former Olympic long jumper, and 10 local bachelorettes.
The good news is that the audience, hosts and Bachelor alums Becca Kufrin (“The Bachelor,” Season 22; “The Bachelorette,” Season 14) and Ben Higgins (“The Bachelorette,” Season 11; “The Bachelor” Season 20) and the female contestants — as well as their friends and family in the audience — energetically kept the show going.
The bad news is that the bachelor, while perfect on paper, didn’t bring anything unique or resembling excitement for the potential to find love. Nevertheless, he did hand out a final rose to Danielle, “an expert at eyebrow microblading, a makeup artist who loves being in the gym,” Higgins said. She was the first one to step out of the side-stage limo but not the recipient of Lapierre’s all-important first impression rose.
The two-hour show saw Lapierre hand out roses over the course of five “dates” and eliminate two women per post-date rose ceremony. The stage adaptions of the reality show’s dates were well-executed — thanks in no small part to the on-stage dancers, who puppeteered the contestants around the stage — and served as much secondhand humiliation as you get from watching people embarrass themselves on national television.
Group dates ranged from a “newly met game” to a haphazard lip sync battle and culminated in a “hometown date” (which was just asking the women icebreaker questions about themselves) and, finally, a fantasy suite for the final two, which gave Lapierre and his finalists a whole three minutes of private one-on-one conversation.
Despite the show’s few disorganized moments that saw too many people onstage, the 66-city national tour seemed to launch on a high note. One audience member remarked, “I want season tickets to this show!” during one of the dates.
Here were the highs and lows of the first “The Bachelor Live on Stage.”
Highlight: Kufrin and Higgins as hosts
Kufrin and Higgins’ months of practice paid off as the (literally) sparkling and charismatic hosts effortlessly explained the concept of each date and played chaperone.
They even revealed some behind-the scenes secrets from their own stints on the reality franchise, including when Higgins and his bachelorettes apparently suffered from dysentery in Honduras and Kufrin broke the rules by sneaking into the “Bachelor” mansion to “make out” with one of the men on her season — though she wouldn’t reveal whether said man was her eventual fiancee, Garrett Yrigoyen.
Higgins’ impersonation of the TV show’s host, Chris Harrison, during the rose ceremonies was so spot-on that with each Harrison-patented line — “Ladies, take a second. I’m sorry, please say your goodbyes” — the crowd’s laughter got stronger.
Or perhaps that was from the extra alcohol purchased during intermission.
Low: Audience participation
The show would not have been as entertaining without the enthusiastic crowd, many wearing “Bachelor”-themed apparel. However, some of the tactics used to involve the hundreds of audience members were clunky. One example: Higgins going in to the crowd to ask people whether they’re “naughty or nice” (the show’s weakest segment).
At times, in what felt like a forced move, Lapierre turned to the crowd to ask whom the recipient of his next rose should be. The requests only elicited an incoherent cacophony of screamed names.
Highlight: Surprise guests
Though she didn’t earn any recognition from the hosts until an hour into the show, “The Bachelor” Season 23 and “Bachelor in Paradise” Season 6 alum Sydney Lotuaco, a former NBA dancer, was part of the small dance troupe that mostly was an elegant way to make sure everyone was standing — and sometimes dancing — in the appropriate place on stage.
Blake Horstmann (“The Bachelorette” Season 14, “Bachelor in Paradise” Season 6), who is also one of Kufrin’s exes, made an appearance, as did Elyse Dehlbom (“The Bachelor” Season 23), a makeup artist in Scottsdale, delighting the crowd.
Low: The dancing
The choreographed numbers by Higgins, Kufrin and their handful of professional dancers were self-aware in their ridiculousness, and the same went for most of the contestants, none of whom were trained in dance.
The cringe-worthy dancing by the brave heel-wearing contestants went on for too long and spanned too many dates, including the “Lip Service” lip-syncing date that featured hits such as “My Heart Will Go On” and “Single Ladies,” and “Naughty or Nice,” an uncomfortably suggestive classroom-themed segment that ended with a “prom”.
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