When writing a musical about a first date, there’s a lot of source material you can pull from. All over the world, people have stories and anecdotes to share; some touching and heart-warming, others shocking and embarrassing. First Date is a story that covers a lot of those same emotions, with some moments feeling a little cringe-worthy, whilst others feel genuinely sweet. But after all, first dates wouldn’t make such good stories if they were all plain sailing.
First Date tells the story of Aaron and Casey – two seemingly mismatched personalities arriving on a blind date in New York. The usual awkward niceties ensue as the pair try and find some common ground that will get them through the night. What follows is a selection of some very well-known first date tropes, ones that are peppered throughout every rom-com and sitcom you can think of. If you can recall any examples from the aforementioned genres, you already know most of the plot.
With the book written by Austin Winsberg and music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, the musical itself is what you’d expect from a rom-com style show. The script and songs provide us with a suitable amount of romance and laughs, but the writing occasionally feels a little obvious and clumsy, leaving the performers to navigate around the more awkward moments. Neither the script or the songs are blatantly bad, but they aren’t particularly memorable, identifiable only by the dating clichés we already know.
Our Aaron and Casey are played by Simon Lipkin and Samantha Barks. Their chemistry cuts through any awkwardness posed by the script and together they create something surprisingly sincere. They are joined by a spectacular trio of supporting characters, with Oscar Conlon-Morrey, Nicholas McLean and Danielle Steers taking on multiple roles throughout, packing a punch with both their comedic timing and impressive vocals. The cast really do make this musical, a true team effort to make the most of this new style of musical performance.
It is no small task trying to create the production value of a West-End show online, particularly whilst following social distancing guidelines. Although this set-up may not achieve the same level as a live production, the abundance of different videos, edited together by Sam Diaz, create the familiar feeling of copious scene changes and big musical numbers that you’d expect to see. As a director, Dean Johnson’s solution to this less than desirable format, is to create something bold and busy, which undoubtedly elevates a simple story that could have fallen flat.
If you do not enjoy corny, clichéd rom-coms, I’d wager this musical isn’t for you. Yet, if you’re sat at home, in the need for an unapologetically cheesy musical, First Date has got you covered. At its worst, it is a little cringeworthy, but at its best, it is wholesome and charming, like any good first date should be.
First Date is streaming online until 24 October. For more information and tickets, see First Date’s website.