BWW Review: FIRST DATE at MDM Theater
Watching First Date live was like a breath of fresh air. Finally, a musical about contemporary life and not an old but everlasting classic. This does not only start a conversation with modern spectators but also attracts modern audience for this genre. And musicals desperately need young spectators in Russia. Almost all previous productions in my country were either about mysterious phantoms in the operas, Russian history and literature or some phenomenon of stylish people in the USSR.
Unlike its original version, the Broadway Moscow & Fancy Show production of the musical is site-specific, with the audience seated in the theatre lobby. The bar and the seats transform in decorations. This has a couple of advantages: such as the beginning of the show when actors are seated with viewers and later proceed to the small stage (a restaurant); the break of the 4th wall is more poignant; spectators feel like they somehow participate. However, it created an uneven sound distribution and I sometimes barely could hear the lyrics because the music was so loud.
There is no way I'll skip the comparison with the latest The Last Five Years which I saw recently. They are so alike and yet so different. Both feature a Jewish guy and a Catholic girl; both are about love and require minimum space and actors (but there are 7 performers in the First Date, most of whom play multiple roles instead of just two in The Last Five Years). Yet, somehow, First Date feels more alive, vivid and meaningful. I guess that's because a lot of people can relate to the plot where there are a lot of discussions about sex, psychotherapy, popular culture (e.g. Russian TV shows or Game of Thrones), religion and the internet in a way that any ordinary person would talk about (there is also a priest partying in one song and a wonderful character of Reggie with his iconic musical numbers).
Every second of the show is thoroughly designed: all heroes feel real, each moment is very thoughtful, thanks to the director Anna Shevchuk who always does a great job (Mamma MIA!, Beauty and the Beast, Singing in the Rain, etc.). The musical is dramatically perfect, consisting of multiple genres (romance, drama, comedy) and evoking all kinds of emotions (from dreaminess to laughter to sadness). Songs are fun, beautiful and sometimes tragic or, vice versa, happy, but, again, I struggled to understand the lyrics.
Eventually, First Date is worth seeing it a second time. It is witty and amusing, yet deep and relatable. Carpe diem, while you can, at the MDM Theatre, take your friends or a significant other and have fun!
Photo Credit: Yury Bogomaz