'First Date' was a wholesome and compelling love story; We'd swipe right!
Showstoppers continue to impress us with their amazing ability to produce a seamless and confident interpretation of a Broadway show; always with the same talent and skill.
‘First Date’ showcases Cydney Waite Brown’s fantastic directorial debut, and it was love at first sight for us! We could tell that Cydney had instilled lots of confidence and passion into what we hope to be the launch of her directorial career! Cydney’s home is usually on stage, which is made clear through the thoughtful and intentional directing throughout the play. Cydney, and her Assistant Director, Saskia Bindloss had a great production team behind them of 4 lovely producers who clearly supported a seamless performance!
Immediately upon entering, we were given a fab programme which was designed to look like classic dating profiles by Freya Mason! This was a really creative and endearing way to allow the audience to meet the cast and crew! We really appreciated the imaginative touch and from now on we’ll be demanding programmes as fun as this one from every show we see!
When entering The Annex we are met with a realistic and professional bar setting doused in a cosy warm light; the fairy lights were a whimsical touch, fitting to the reflective tone of the story. The musical is set in New York, and we must commend the cast for their brilliant American accents. Musical Director and conductor, Julz Taylor, started the band off with a bang, and since that opening note they didn’t miss a beat! We even said after the show that we often forgot there was a live band as they sounded so on time and pitch perfect. P.S.: Great sax solo!
We’re immediately introduced to Aaron (Will Bartlett) and Casey (Jenny Hadley) who are about to set out on a modern day nightmare – a blind date! In an almost role reversal with Cydney, this is Jenny’s first time as a cast member – usually finding herself backstage on the production team. Massive well done to Jenny for her leading debut! We would never have guessed this was her first time in the spotlight and she shone brightly. Jenny’s American accent was spot-on and she has an amazing voice which blended well with Will’s. Speaking of Will, he flourished in the character of Aaron, embodying his awkward demeanour comedically and sometimes sensitively. Our favourite Will moment was his seamless salvaging of a scene gone wrong, where a piece of lettuce fell onto his leg whilst his character was frozen. His charismatic moment of improv had the audience lolling and cheering, and us too!
The couple are haunted by an ensemble of characters from their past who hold them back from finding true love. Millie Edwards, Tom Rolph, Issie Roll, Kenny Adegbola, and James Taylor sat in the background of ‘Bar 2A’, on their ‘charade dates’. Although they weren’t being watched all the time, they still commanded attention with funny actions and facial expressions, and it’s great to see productions using real food!
The five ensemble cast played various roles. Millie played Allison, Aaron’s ex – and as his friend Gabe says, ‘Talk about the ex, forget about the sex’. We’re glad Aaron did talk about her however, because we loved listening to Millie’s Disney princess-esque singing. Millie had a confident stage presence, was a joy to watch, and she absolutely slayed the high notes! Tom played the Waiter and Casey’s Father. We loved his solo ‘I’d Order Love’ which showcased his incredibly strong and powerful vocals – he had the audience in the palm of his hand and we’re pleased he found his happy ending! Issie played two very different characters and she did it well as Grandma Ida and Lauren. Grandma Ida was a hilarious character who I wanted to see more of, whilst Lauren was a judgemental and bossy sister. She brought a lot of life to these bold characters and we loved her harmonies with the rest of the cast! James had a great performance as Gabe and also a cowboy, who we must say fully entertained us! He introduced many songs confidently and paved the way for some excellent musical theatrics. The cherry on the cake was Kenny! He outstandingly played Casey’s BFF Reggie! Kenny had some fantastic solos including ‘Bail Out one, two, AND THREE!!!!!! What a treat! Kenny’s powerful vocals had The Annex in awe and our jaws on the floor! He was really confident (as he should be) and was sassy af. Let’s take a quick moment here to congratulate Stage Society for their incredible production skills, giving Kenny a spotlight and changing the lighting on cue! They really outdid themselves and set a great atmosphere.
Our top song was ‘The Girl for You’ which was a hilarious and energetic rendition that included all the cast. It really sounded like a whole choir was there belting their precious hearts out! There was excellent harmonising, fabulous choreography from Ellena Potter, and strong vocals. Ellena did a great job of choreographing dances throughout the show without over-complicating moves which meant the cast performed perfectly!
Occasionally there was the odd tripping over lines and holding in laughter, but this was smoothed out expertly and gave the performance a human quality which aided the emotion of the piece and audience connection.
Overall, it was an absolute joy to watch Showstoppers perform such a funny and sweet musical. They are such a talented bunch and really bring out the best in each other. The company really hit it out of the park and it’s so heartwarming to see people do what they love, and even better when they do it well!
It was the best ‘First Date’ we’ve been on!