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The Only Perfect First Date

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

This week Fane Productions in collaboration with Lambert Jackson Productions and Crazy Coqs Productions opened their virtual production of First Date: The Musical!

This production of this fabulous musical comedy by Austin Winsberg with an upbeat rock and roll score by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner is directed by Dean Johnson, with musical direction and supervision by Josh Winstone and Adam Hoskins. First Date is brought to life by a sparkly cast, starring Samantha Barks as Casey and Simon Lipkin as Aaron, and including Oscar Conlan-Morrey, Nicholas McLean, Danielle Steers, and featuring Rufus Kampa.

Set up by friends on a blind date, total opposites Casey and Aaron find themselves stuck in a classically awkward first date situation. Luckily they have a group of friends and strangers to help them through the evening, and to decide: will they see each other again, or will the night be chalked up to another horrible first date?

First Date provides an intimate and lighthearted look at the timeless truths of dating, while celebrating the hope of finding “the one” which keeps us going through the agony and excitement of each first date.

First Date has always been one of my favourite shows and here’s why.

It is the perfect combination of comedy which may seem a bit cheesy is not for the depth laying underneath. This is a cleverly written, well-paced show, set to a brilliant contemporary score featuring a wonderful balance of upbeat songs and emotional ballads.

This production of First Date was not just a live streamed performance. The show was pre-filmed at the gorgeous Crazy Coqs in London, edited, and then streamed live on Vimeo at showtime. This was a brilliant way to avoid technical difficulties, and to use editing and effects. The combination of classic stage and film elements truly capture the best of both worlds, and the work with lighting, greenscreen backgrounds and more make the show that much more engaging for those of us watching from home.

One of my favourite moments in how this production brilliantly married stage and screen, was including a ‘curtain call’ with the end credits. Each actor received a well-earned bow alongside their name, which was a brilliant tribute to the world of live theatre we all hope to return to very soon.

First Date is incredibly cast, with each performer overflowing with starpower and featured beautifully throughout the show. All of these performers are working double-time, performing a large musical production for a smaller screen, and the result is amazing.

Samantha Barks and Simon Lipkin have wonderful chemistry as total opposites Casey and Aaron.

Cool and collected as Casey, Barks still remains charismatic, drawing audiences in first with her honesty, and then with the softer side of her tough girl persona. Her performance of ‘Safer’ is a masterclass in acting through song, and her use of dynamics and texture result in a heartfelt, intimate performance while showcasing a beautiful belt.

Opposite Barks, Lipkin is open and likeable as Aaron, and audiences instantly root for him to get the girl, despite their obvious differences. In the second act, he navigates two contrasting songs ‘Things I Never Said’ and ‘In Love With You’ with ease, demonstrating stamina as well as a look beyond Aaron’s nervous outer shell.

Some of the best work in the show lies in the growth and development of their two characters over the course of the show. These character arcs are gorgeous, subtle, and are slowly enacted over the course of the show, letting audience members embrace the change instead of being thrown off by it.

This production of First Date is an amazing example of ensemble work, and demonstrates not only the importance of an ensemble to the show, but the many versatile ways they can be used and featured, even with a small size.

The ensemble trio consists of Oscar Conlan-Morrey, Nicholas McLean, and Danielle Steers, and from their first entrance, I found myself waiting for the next time they would appear, and who they would be this time! This group of performers are overflowing with versatility and talent, from gorgeous harmonies to the various characters they represent.

Conlan-Murray and McLean are so hilarious in ‘That’s Why You Love Me’ that I was introduced to a danger of enjoying theatre at home: I laughed so hard I hit my head off the corner of a piece of living room furniture.

While each ensemble member has unlimited star power, I do have to give a nod to Steers, who is almost chameleon-like as she jumps between the multiple characters within her track. She was a massive stand out for me, and was featured so beautifully within this show.

‘The Girl For You’ is a number which is a perfect example of how the ensemble is used within this production, and how the virtual aspect lends itself to helping showcase a small ensemble. Not only do the performers take many roles, but they are also featured as the choir and edited in as both at the same time!

(This is a poor description on my part, but I’d recommend tuning into the show for this alone.)

I absolutely adored tuning in to First Date, and being able to tune in to a show I have loved for so long from the comfort of my own home was an incredible treat.

This show was a perfect pick-me-up on a drizzly fall day. I laughed, I cried, and it left a huge grin on my face.

I would highly recommend purchasing a ticket to this production, grabbing some snacks and a blanket, and tuning in! First Date will have two more performances on Friday, October 22nd, and Saturday, October 23rd at 19:30 BST (2pm EST.).

If you watched First Date today, leave us a comment below sharing your highlights!

And if you haven’t… Feel free to share your own first date horror stories!

Previously Published on Break A Leg

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