REVIEW: First Date, Lambert Jackson Productions (Online)

This very contemporary romantic musical is completely relatable for anyone who has had an awkward first date.

Let’s all be honest. We have all been on a first date which has been completely memorable – if not always in a good way. Which is why First Date, featuring music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner is delightfully enjoyable while being completely relatable at the same time.

First Date sees cool and laid back Casey heading off on a date with the awkward Aaron having been set up by friends. From the off it seems that the pair are an unlikely match – but with a little bit of help and encouragement, could it be that opposites attract?

Featuring a smart and sassy book by Austin Winsberg, First Date is a frank and honest look at modern dating. It does have to be said that on occasion, perhaps some of the humour won’t be to everybody’s taste – but for the most part there are plenty of immensely enjoyable awkward interactions between Casey and Aaron that do charm the audience.

Musically, Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner’s score is the most memorable when it is emotionally engaging – as Samantha Bark’s solo ‘Safer’ proves. It was a song that offered another layer to the character, combined with Bark’s natural ability to get to the heart of a song and make it sound effortless. The lyrics perhaps are the stronger element for being consistently witty and honest.

What really is impressive about this streamed production is the way in which the story has been brought to life by director Dean Johnson. Filmed predominantly at the Crazy Coqs with a few other locations thrown in, it feels like a very intimate performance that is extremely well focused. The filming techniques used are wonderfully diverse offering extra depth and even humour to proceedings – with scenes being influenced by things such as music videos or even sit-coms in a way that really captures the audiences attention. It is bold and inventive and also seamless.

If there is perhaps a slight flaw to the musical itself, it sometimes get carried away with the humour and forgets about the two central characters and would have been lovely to have a few more scenes or moments focusing on their interactions. This being said it does mean that it allows for some brilliant moments from the rest of the cast – who are really on point.

In particular, Oscar Conlon-Morrey is a real delight to watch – from the way in which he engages with audience during interval or the way in which he handles the puppet blaze, he really makes the most of the comedy. Nicholas McLean is also brilliant to watch as Casey’s friend constantly calling to offer to help bail her out of the date – a very flamboyant performance that works really well. All of the supporting cast throw themselves to the numerous characters they play with great energy and style.

What of our leading couple? Samantha Barks and Simon Lipkin have a lovely and believable chemistry together that makes it easy for us to root for them to get together. Lipkin, plays the awkward Aaron with great earnestness, making a nice contrast to Barks as the street smart Casey. They make for an utterly charming pair.

First Date is a contemporary musical that those dating in 2020 can completely relate to. It is endearingly brought to life with great style by Dean Johnson – and certainly a show I could happily sit through again.

By Emma Clarendon

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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