Sunday, September 29, 2013

Album Review: FIRST DATE

To paraphrase lyrics from the show: "It's only a first impression; I could be totally wrong. But... this show doesn't seem to be very good."

First Date, the new musical comedy currently running on Broadway and featuring stars Krysta Rodriguez and Zachary Levi in the lead roles, is one of those shows that has completely divided critics and audiences. Critics have generally slammed the show, with a few exceptions, while audiences have been going crazy over it.

I'm going to assume that this is a show you really have to see to appreciate, because nothing that audiences seem to be so excited over comes across on this recording, produced by the great new Yellow Sound Label. All this recording amounts to is a bunch forgettable pop-rock songs filled with try-hard comedy consisting of clichés and stereotypes. Again, this is only going off the recording. This is by no means an immortalization of the entire show, so I'm sure those of us who have only heard the album are missing something. I have no doubt that this show is as funny and enjoyable as audiences are saying. But if it was the intention of this album to capture that spirit, it hasn't quite succeeded.

Krysta Rodriguez and Zachary Levi are perfectly likeable and are very strong singers, along with the rest of the small supporting cast. If anything, there's an undeniable level of energetic fun present in this ambitious, hard-working cast. But the score, by Alan Zachary and Michael Wiener, is bland (though bouncy) and the lyrics just seem to be reaching for a laugh. Problem is, the key to comedy is surprise, and the lyrics are so frequently predictable that the crucial element of surprise is hopelessly lost and the comedy loses its punch.

There's also a pattern of cliché that makes things all the more predictable... For instance, The Bailout Song, which has two painful reprises, features the most annoyingly stereotypical gay best friend you could ever conjure up... pinched upper-register voice and frequent use of terms of 'endearment' such as "bitch" or "slut". Unfortunately, the entire cast of characters doesn't fare much better... the show is built of stereotypical caricatures with predictable and uninteresting arcs.

So in the end, what are we left with? Something that probably should have been a Fringe Festival show. This is the kind of modest, fun little musical that Fringe audiences eat up, and in such an environment, the show's faults would be easily forgiven. The show is simply not meant for Broadway... it's just not that kind of theatre.

I had my first date with First Date, and sadly, it'll also be my last. We just aren't meant for each other.

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