Samantha Barks and Simon Lipkin lead a terrific ensemble in this innovative, virtual production of First Date – the Musical – shame about the show itself…
“It’s only a first impression
And though the impression is strong
It never can hurt to question
Though I doubt this will lead to romance”
There’s so much to commend in this virtual production of First Date – the Musical. Directed by Dean Johnson in the elegant surroundings of the Crazy Coqs, there’s a really clever use of video inserts to enhance this show about an unlikely blind date and make it stand out in the ever-crowded market of livestreams that are available.
Johnson’s videography is genuinely high-quality and provides a constant stream of laughs, as moody black and white segments will awkward pauses and fantasy sequences support the main event. And with Simon Lipkin and Samantha Barks leading the cast, and Oscar Conlon-Morrey, Nicholas McLean and Danielle Steers making up an ensemble of dreams, signs look good.
The problem, such as it is, lies with the choice of material. The music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner get away with their soft-rock influences but the book by Austin Winsberg, dating from 2012, suffers from a set of retrograde gender politics that feel really awkward onscreen. We all know that straight people be crazy but in a piece that is at pains to be contemporary, it is difficult to stomach theatre forcing such dated attitudes on us.
That’s not to deny the good work that is here. The aforementioned creative innovation, the chemistry between Lipkin and Barks that rises well above the writing, Josh Winstone’s musical direction, the ‘meta-moment’ that is the interval (seriously, is anyone having a better lockdown than Conlon-Morrey?! the man should be rewarded). Worth checking out (despite my reservations) and I look forward to seeing how Lambert Jackson Productions continue to push this form forward.