Tag Archives: Dean Johnson

First Date

First Date

★★★

Online

First Date

First Date

Online stream from Crazy Coqs

Reviewed – 22nd October 2020

★★★

 

“the memorable songs and the impressive performances carry this funny and relatable take on the dating world”

 

The year is 2020, a pandemic has turned singletons everywhere horny (sound familiar?), and the musical ’First Date’ is here to find out if we can still believe in love!

In the Crazy Coqs bar we meet Aaron (Simon Lipkin) and Casey (Samantha Barks) on a blind date and setting eyes on each other for the first time. Queue a series of fantastically funny songs alighting on all the truisms of first dates from the friend you have lined up to fake an accident to the awkward pauses and who pays the cheque at the end of it all! The pair navigate small talk and their differences, to see whether this could be something. Our two daters are surrounded by a fantastic chorus who pop-up Grecian-esque as bartenders, exes, bad boys and even Google embodied!

The songs, written by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, are consistently brilliant. There are cabaret numbers, comedy numbers, ballads, duets and a lovely five-person opening. Accompanied by a live piano, the songs are well-written, well-sung and all great fun! The script (Austin Winsberg) between songs, however, is not up to the standard of the song writing at all. Whilst there’s some promise in there, it is overly long and slow, and needs some serious tightening up to meet the quality which is so evident in the lyric writing.

The cast are really strong, directed by Dean Johnson. They all boast fantastic voices, brought together with musical direction from John Winstone. Barks and Lipkin sing wonderfully, working hard on a slow script, although lacking in chemistry between them. Some favourite characters in the panopoly that the chorus play include Nick McLean’s Reggie and Danielle Steers’ dead grandma! The shining star of the whole show is Oscar Conlon-Morrey who is irresistibly funny in every role he plays: a feast to watch, even when he is just making comments during the internal (a lovely touch). I could’ve watch him all day.

Unfortunately the quality of the music and performers is let down by the audio (Matt Ide) and videography (Sam Diaz) quality, both of which are wildly inconsistent, so much so that they are disruptive to the piece*. The green screen backdrops are really fun and work really well, but in the space itself the lighting is bizarre and doesn’t respond to lighting changes mentioned in the script, silence buzzes, and it would be impossible to watch this through without regularly adjusting the volume up and down on your television or laptop. Given that it is presented like a film, it needs to have the basic production values of one. It is such a shame, given the quality of the actors and the material.

Production quality aside, the memorable songs and the impressive performances carry this funny and relatable take on the dating world.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography courtesy Lambert Jackson

 

* This show was reviewed on an advance link so sound and video quality may be improved on the released production

 


First Date

Online stream from Crazy Coqs

 

Last ten shows reviewed by Amelia:
Germ Free Adolescent | ★★★★ | The Bunker | October 2019
Before I Was A Bear | ★★★★★ | The Bunker | November 2019
I Will Still Be Whole (When You Rip Me In Half) | ★★★★ | The Bunker | November 2019
My White Best Friend And Even More Letters Best Left Unsaid | ★★★★ | The Bunker | November 2019
Potted Panto | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | December 2019
The Girl With Glitter in Her Eye | ★★½ | The Bunker | January 2020
Essence | ★★½ | The Vaults | February 2020
Flights | ★★★½ | Omnibus Theatre | February 2020
Maliphantworks3 | ★★★★★ | The Coronet Theatre | February 2020
Globaleyes | ★★★★ | Online | September 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Dogfight

Dogfight

★★★★

Southwark Playhouse

Dogfight

Dogfight

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 21st August 2019

★★★★

 

a brilliant and nuanced musical

 

It’s 1963 and Eddie Birdlace has one more night before him and his fellow marine buddies (Bernstein and Boland – the three bees) ship out to the Vietnam war. Full of the certainty of their invincibility and the promise of a hero’s return, the marines spend their night partaking in a long honoured tradition: the dogfight. A simple premise. Each marine puts in fifty bucks. They throw a party. The marine who can bring the ugliest date wins the leftover money. When Eddie meets Rose he is sure he has found the perfect girl for the dogfight, but he doesn’t bargain for what comes next.

At its heart this is a love story but it is also investigates toxic masculinity. The marines have only had thirteen weeks training, and can’t be more than nineteen years old. They are vessels of a violent and ugly misogyny, but at the same time they are no more than boys, naive and vulnerable, in no way ready to face war. In heartbreaking juxtaposition, Rose is a breath of fresh air to the stage, intelligent, interesting and ultimately kind.

The performers are all members of the British Theatre Academy, which offers accessible training and performance opportunities to young people under the age of twenty three. And what a cast they are. Across the board they are full of energy and conviction, and there isn’t a weak link onstage. Our leading pair played by Stephen Lewis-Johnson and Claire Keenan in this performance – two casts alternate – are brilliant. Keenan is particularly compelling, funny and genuine, immediately likeable. She is utterly engaging to watch. Her and Lewis-Johnson are in turn lovely together, and both vocally really strong. Lewis-Johnson’s lonely return from Vietnam is an undeniably powerful end to the show which he delivers with the full emotional punch it deserves.

The band are faultless. It’s a fantastic score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (both music and lyrics) that they handle with accomplishment and ease.

The set by Dean Johnson and Andrew Exeter is simple but effective. The band, lit by warm lamps are at the back of the stage and the different settings are created by wooden crates. A particularly lovely moment sees light bulbs suspended by cast members to create street lamps around Eddie and Rose on their first date.

This a brilliant and nuanced musical that is delivered by an incredibly talented cast and band.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Eliza Wilmot

 


Dogfight

Southwark Playhouse until 31st August

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Aspects of Love | ★★★★ | January 2019
All In A Row | ★★ | February 2019
Billy Bishop Goes To War | ★★★ | March 2019
The Rubenstein Kiss | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Other People’s Money | ★★★ | April 2019
Oneness | ★★★ | May 2019
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Afterglow | ★★★½ | June 2019
Fiver | ★★★★ | July 2019
Once On This Island | ★★★ | August 2019

 

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