It gives me great pleasure to introduce theatre critic Jan Hallam whose vast knowledge of the Perth arts scene is greatly appreciated here at Noted. I hope you enjoy her sharp reviews.

First Date

First Date: The Musical
WA Maritime Museum
Review: Jan Hallam                                                                                                                     Rating: Four stars

The signs were auspicious. Outside there was a blood blue bloody big moon rising over the Maritime Museum on Victoria Quay in Fremantle; inside a love story as old as time playing out, one hilarious song after another.

Grey Lantern Production’s first of two Fringe World offerings, First Date: The Musical, was a revelation. It was not only pitch-perfectly executed in a space only slightly bigger than a broom cupboard, it made every person in the audience want to jump on stage to whisper some of their own wisdoms into the ear of our young lovers as they wilfully misunderstood each other.

Director Lorna Mackie, and the apparent courage behind Grey Lantern, has delivered a cracker with this musical, which originated in Seattle in 2012 and rushed on to Broadway in 2013 for good reason. It is very funny in that whip sharp way Jewish humour works – self-deprecating while lacerating.

Mackie took the show on its first outing last year in a community hall in Shenton Park and the Fringe wisely gave it the nod for this year’s festival.

Austin Winsberg wrote the production book, while music and lyrics were from Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner. The bones of First Date are strong.

However, the young cast and crew put some delicious meat on those bones with sophisticated performances both in song and action. You can see WAAPA’s music theatre program leap out with every professional move they make.

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The daters, Aaron and Casey, (the Blind Date Virgin and the Blind Date Slut – their words!) were played by Tom Hutton and Cassie Skinner and from their first entrance you couldn’t keep your eyes off them. They owned their characters – Aaron the shy, jilted-at-the-alter groom desperate to put his past behind him and find love (sex wouldn’t be bad idea either); and Casey, the girl who’s been looking in all the wrong places for abovementioned love (and the other).

Behind the daters are best friends, sisters, ex-lovers, bartenders, gay handbags, even Aaron’s dead Jewish grandmother – they all come out in force to cheer, steer, veer and leer. Too many to name but the support cast were spectacular.

But as the song says, it ain’t got a thing if it ain’t got swing. Musical director Tyler Eldridge has schooled the singers and instrumentalists with precision. A six-piece band of reeds, keyboards, guitars and drum with leader Liam Gobbert were lined up at the back of the squeezy play space like ducks in a row. But they packed a punch and how good it is to hear live music played well.

The tech crew also did a marvellous job in the confined space – so good we were in a bar in downtown anywhere with the fourth play wall invisible. You can’t ask for more than that.

First Date plays until Saturday with two performances on Friday night.
Watch out for Grey Lantern’s second Fringe show, Five Lesbians Eating Quiche, at the new Henry Summer Fringe venue starting February 21.

Jan Hallam has been watching theatre for a living for the past 30 years. Working for both The West Australian and The Sunday Times, she has been lucky to have experienced just how diverse and talented the Perth arts scene is. When she’s not sitting in the dark, she’s staring at the light of a computer screen as editor and journalist.