Thoughts on First Date the Musical

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What: First Date – The Musical
When: 2nd September, 2016
Where: Chapel Off Chapel, Prahran, Melbourne

Playing from the 1-11 September, 2016.

For more on First Date, please visit: http://chapeloffchapel.com.au

How many of you have heard of the musical, First Date? I’d be surprised if many of you had. It’s quite new. It made it’s world premiere in 2012, before making it’s Broadway debut in 2013 starring Zachary Levi (best known for his role in Chuck – or as the voice of Flynn Rider in Tangled) and Krysta Rodriguez. Book by Austin Winsberg, and music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner.

The premise of First Date is in the title, but I don’t think you have to have been on a blind date (or even a date) to relate to the story. We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve had to meet someone new. Sure, this person may not be someone you’re looking to spend the rest of your life week, but we’ve all acted a complete fool when meeting someone for the first time. If you haven’t, you’re lying. Period.

The story revolves around our hero, Aaron, who meets Casey, a serial dater, in a local cafe. Having been set up by Casey’s brother in law, First Date deals with problems we face when we first meet a potential mate – like dealing with first impressions, assuming someone is something they may or may not be based on their appearance, the awkward pauses, making small talk, talking about exes, paying the bill at the end of the night, answering the bailout call and faking an emergency, added pressure from family and friends who want the date to go well, the inner self doubt … the list goes on.

I love a musical that you can relate to in some way. In First Date, it was Casey. I’m more like Casey than I’d ever like to admit. The way she spoke about not opening her heart because she’s afraid of rejection and being hurt – it just hit too close to home. It also made me realise a lot about myself, which I didn’t ever imagine I’d be saying before I saw the show.

This may be a slight spoiler too. But I also enjoyed the display of the “act” we often put on when we want to impress someone. You know, you’re that better version of yourself, but it’s one of total sabotage because only when you truly let your guard down are you a more compelling and interesting person.

Live lesson learned in this – and I didn’t have to fork out $200 to see a therapist. Winner.

It is a small cast and the supporting actors play a lot of different roles – I’m unsure if this is the norm for the musical, or if it was done because the small stage/venue size doesn’t allow for a big cast. Whereas it was distracting in Avenue Q, I think First Date succeeds in its use of characters. Daniel Cosgrove, Nicole Melloy, Adam Porter, Danielle O’Malley and Stephen Valeri all do a great job in their numerous respected roles.

Also, where background characters could be just that – they’re not. You want to pay attention to those in the background because often, at times, their antics provide extra laughs. It’s quite genius actually. It’s hard to steal the spotlight from the leads, but somehow, someway, First Date does it well.

Let’s talk about our leads for the moment. When Jordon Mahar, as Aaron, first came onto stage, I thought there is no way he is acting. His red hair. His nerdy appearance. His strange mannerisms. He has it down. I thought for sure that it just must be him – but no, he’s just a really, really good actor. As an audience member, you’re rooting for him. You want him to get the girl because he’s clueless and unaware of what he should do. His performance is endearing and plays well off of Rebecca Hetherington (Casey). She plays  disinterested, somewhat snarky and sarcastic well but, by the end, you see it’s all a front, a guard, a wall, to protect herself from getting hurt, and she does vulnerable very well also.

I’m not one to usually laugh out loud but this had me in stitches. Again. And again. And again. You could tell the cast were really enjoying themselves too. The Melbourne-based aspects in the show, like the coffee shop they met at is based on the real Tall Timber cafe in Prahran, is a nice touch. It’s also refreshing to not have performers fake an accent.

I was close to tears during The Things I Never Said. I’m not going to spoil anything – but it that song doesn’t give you the feels, you have no heart. I listened to it on YouTube when I got home and had tears rolling down my face. It’s beautifully written.

The set is quite minimal (it doesn’t need to be anything more) but it’s also interactive. Not only can you sit in the cafe, like sitting on tables and chairs (as apposed to the theatre seats behind) in the front of the theatre (be aware that the cast will interact with you if you do choose to sit there) but you can go onto the set and buy a drink. By the end of the musical, the chairs and tables are packed away when the cafe “closes”, so it’s nice to see the busy daytime hustle and after hours. It feels real, even if you’re not that close to the set itself. Also, pay attention to the “cook” in the kitchen – you can see there’s a drum kit back there!

The only downside is the musical is let down by the sound itself. While good (the musicians are fantastic, no doubt), the music is too loud and at times, made it difficult to hear/understand lyrics. The singers may have tried to over compensate by singing louder and this helped a little, but may have strained their voices. This problem did get better throughout the show, but there were many funny lines missed during some of the numbers. If this slight problem was fixed, the show overall would be much more successful.

But saying that, it’s such a quirky and fun show, and it is not something that is gender biased. More than any show I’ve seen in recent times, this equally appeals to males and females – it’s a triumphant display of the intricacies of human character.

It’s witty. It’s funny. It’s clever. It’s got heart. It’s risque. It’s at times camp. It’s offensive (okay it’s not really – but hey, the line about Alison being a Scorpio kind of was … even though all Scorpios will tell you it’s completely based on fact and truth. We are what we are.) And it’s relatable. What’s not to love?


It’s only playing at Chapel Off Chapel until the 11th of September.
Concession tickets are available. There are some sexual themes and language.

For more on First Date, please visit: http://chapeloffchapel.com.au

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