Witty, relatable and modern, First Date: The Musical plays with familiar character tropes in modern dating, including the friend setting up the blind date with good intentions, the idealised ex, and the BFF just a phone call away to save the day when the date turns south. The musical numbers cover relatable first date themes including who’ll pay the bill and avoiding discussion of exes, ranging from the light-heartedly witty First Impressions to the emotionally-driven Safer and The Things I Never Said.
Veteran blind dater Casey (Rebecca Hetherington), unimpressed by awkward ‘blind date virgin’ Aaron (Jordan Mahar), opts instead to take him under her wing, instructing him in the social conventions and appropriate behaviour of first dates. Mahar’s Aaron is geeky, awkwardly endearing and likable even in his entitled response to being friend-zoned. Stephen Valeri is effervescent as their waiter and delightfully droll as Casey’s imaginary child.
Melbourne suburb names replace their New York counterparts
The New York-based musical slips almost seamlessly into Pursued By Bear’s Melbournised Australian premiere without needing much modification. Melbourne suburb names replace their New York counterparts. Artsy New Yorker Casey becomes a more relatable tattooed, vintage-clad Melbournian. Sarah Tulloch’s set design nails the Melbourne café, complete with pre-show coffee supplied by local café Tall Timber. With an industrial warehouse look, flamingo-topped pot plants and the retro bike with attached wicker basket favoured by Melbourne hipsters, all that’s missing is exposed brick and deconstructed coffee.
Mark Taylor’s direction and Joel Anderson’s choreography emphasise the sexual overtones of First Date. Ensemble numbers feature the classic club ‘slut drop’ and simulated orgies, pushing further than the Broadway production. Perhaps this exaggerated crudity is intended to be more ‘Melbourne.’ Whatever the intention, it toes the line between amusingly risqué and gratuitous.
While not exactly groundbreaking, this light-hearted feel-good musical is an entertaining exploration of modern dating. Pursued By Bear’s relatable Melburnian take is a refreshing respite in a sea of contrived American accents on Australian stages.