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BWW Review: FIRST DATE THE MUSICAL, Crazy Coqs Online

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The American musical comedy is filmed in advance and streamed

BWW Review: FIRST DATE THE MUSICAL, Crazy Coqs OnlineBWW Review: FIRST DATE THE MUSICAL, Crazy Coqs Online

Austin Winberg's musical First Date was first seen on Broadway in 2013. It's a classic American story of two mismatched singletons in New York - Aaron and Casey - who end up on a blind date, and all the complications that come with that.

Featuring a contemporary rock score by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, First Date has now hit UK shores for the first time thanks to Lambert Jackson Productions in association with Crazy Coqs, starring Simon Lipkin and Samantha Barks in the lead roles.

You don't get a more charismatic duo than Lipkin and Barks. Both superstars in their own right, but leaning into different strengths, Lipkin and Barks have a natural camaraderie that lifts the performances to a very believable place. Lipkin's natural sense of comedy is utilised to the max, but is nuanced and rooted in relatable vulnerability. Barks has a swagger and polish that lights up the screen, but breaks your heart when you look into her eyes.

The supporting cast of Nicholas McLean, Danielle Steers and the scene-stealing Oscar Conlon-Morrey need not be deemed 'supporting' at all - they're a pretty crucial linchpin, embodying a variety of real-world and semi-imaginary characters, and serving as a legitimate vehicle to move the narrative along at pace - a Greek Chorus of sorts. And what a joy these roles must be for these incredibly versatile actors, who are given the freedom to turn their hand to anything.

Their breakout side scenes pepper the story pretty regularly, but as brilliantly funny as they are, it makes the pace quite frenetic, and I'd have liked to have more scenes focused on Aaron and Casey's interactions. However, as the story progresses and Aaron and Casey take the pressure off their date, things start getting real and we're treated to some longer scenes with more depth, which are extremely touching.

Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner's soft-rock score has a few standout tracks, notably Bark's solo "Safer" - it beautifully showcases the moment where we begin to understand how her bravado is masking her inner damage, as she is haunted by her past and her broken family. Most of the songs' strengths lie in the lyrics, which are witty and authentic.

What's intriguing about Dean Johnson's production is the combination of filming techniques and effects that have been used to create a theatre-movie hybrid. Moving from sitcom-style scenes, to high-concept film noir or early 90s grunge rock music video, nothing seems out of bounds here. But it transcends the traditional tropes of all of the above, and stylistically is something I'm not sure I've ever seen before. It's layered - not just at performance level, but in execution, and one wonders if this could be an example of the future of online entertainment.

First Date is a unique example of experimental art in 2020, with heart and belly laughs aplenty. In fact, I think this is the first musical I've watched where I've laughed the most during the interval - and I compel you to check it out to see what I mean. Lambert Jackson, Johnson and Crazy Coqs have proven what can be created with vision, talent, and a willingness to experiment. Who knows how long we'll exist in this COVID-limbo, but if it continues to generate content like this, I am here for it.

First Date is available until 24 October. Book tickets here

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From This Author Caroline Cronin