Crass, cluey, and relentlessly funny
By Amy Planner
That awkward blind date feeling should definitely be avoided at all costs, so when someone decides to dedicate a musical to it, there are bound to be a few uncomfortable and unfortunately relatable moments. Enter First Date: The Musical (book by Austin Winsberg and music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner) – this is the show dedicated to bringing those dreaded memories back and managing to make you both laugh and cry at them.
When slightly nerdy blind date newbie Aaron (Jordan Mahar) is set up with tattoo-toting blind date veteran Casey (Rebecca Hetherington), their obvious differences make for an interesting and incredibly awkward first date. Along for the ride are a number of family members, potential children, ex-lovers and a best mate or two to give their albeit not always helpful advice – in musical form of course.
The Small Timber Café was the setting of this first date disaster, with the audience invited to sit at the café tables and even order coffee from the stage before the show. Cast members lingered around, blending in with baristas and immersing the awaiting audience in this distinctive setting.
There were a few sound issues in the beginning but after some level adjustments and once those opening night nerves were settled, this show had the audience laughing, clapping and even hollering at times.
This small cast were incredibly entertaining from lights up to lights down. Their energy was outstanding as was their enthusiasm for the show bubbling over. Hetherington and Mahar took the lead with their well-characterised vocals, even contriving to sober the boisterous audience with their serious solos.
The five-man ensemble; Nicole Melloy, Danielle O’Malley, Adam Porter, Stephen Valeri and Daniel Cosgrove, were the energetic life force of the show. Each performer had such a unique take on their characters, which made for a hilariously bumpy ride.
Other than those few audio hiccups, this show was pretty seamless. Director Mark Taylor took an Americanised script and made it fit perfectly into an Australian setting and by taking a few ‘lewd’ chances, has put together a genuinely hilarious production.
First Date’s musical score is very modern and unexpected but has indisputable flow and vigour, and no successful musical would be complete without a great Musical Director – and Stephanie Lewendon-Lowe was just that. Her artistic verve manifested in equally witty tunes and great musical moments. The band had nowhere to hide, set upstage in full view of the audience, disguised as café patrons and a chef hat-totting drummer behind the pass.
Sarah Tulloch’s production design was satisfyingly realistic and unbelievably innovative. The set dressing was simple but effective and the ease with which backstage crew could be disguised as waiters and move items around was a sneakily brilliant thought.
First Date is comically crude and toe-tappingly upbeat, and it even slips in a few serious moments to make you remember some things are all too real and unavoidable. As someone who has seen the Broadway original, this definitely stacks up and does Melbourne proud.
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel
Season: September 2-11, Mon-Sat 8pm & Sun 5pm
Tickets: $39 Monday only, $49 Full, $39 Concession (+ transaction fee)