A certain aura always surrounds a new musical. Vibrations of excitement fill the air. A heart-quickening hum drives interest. On the opposite end of the spectrum, these feelings create a nauseating dirge of distress when preparing for a blind date. The disparity in these emotions, naturally, make a musical comedy based on the concept of a blind date sound like a good time. Yet, the Broadway production of First Date, which debuted this August 8 at the Longacre Theatre, only scrapped up mixed reviews. Having now heard the cast album, it is not hard to understand why.
The opening chords on the album are alluring and energetic, giving the first 25 seconds of the album a charming appeal. Sadly, Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner's lyrics and music quickly degenerate into a pastiche of clichés and tired jokes. The lines in the opening number, "The One," would be funnier if we hadn't heard them all before. Others on the disc are groan worthy eye rollers as when Aaron's Grandma Ida exclaims, "If you wed this little tsatskeleh/ I'll break your matzah balls!" The bland lyrical writing, the too generic pop music tonality, and even the lackluster attempt at hip-hop for a segment of "The Girl For You" keeps listeners at a frigid distance for a majority of album.
The likable and charismatic vocal skills of Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez just aren't enough to redeem the recording. Both perform with agility, and Krysta Rodriguez even uses a plucky pop vocal style tinged with rock sentimentality. Despite putting their all into these performances, the songs aren't catchy but completely forgettable.
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Across the album, I only found two songs that were palatable. Krysta Rodriguez's charming and engaging voice mixed with the show's strongest lyrics and music composition makes "Safer" a song worth purchasing. Likewise, the ensemble's strong vocal abilities are gorgeous on "The Awkward Pause," which is a song reminiscent of music created by The Mamas & The Papas.
There is a third number that's somewhat likable. Blake Hammond's Frank Sinatra inspired vocals on the jazz standard influenced "I'd Order Love" is spirited and fun. This number cleverly shows the audience a first date from the waiter's perspective, but it gets carried away. Lyrics such as "I'd order love/ That's spicy and steaming and hot" and "I crave nights full of passion/ All drizzled in lust" just oversell the number and lack subtlety.
I wanted to love this album. Growing up in the '90s, I wanted to be wooed by the TLC-esque throwback sounds presented on the Bailout songs. Instead, I found myself bored by the simplistic, uninspired, and unoriginal tunes. Yes, there's energy , but the constant over-the-top lyrics, especially on numbers like "That's Why You Love Me," make the musical seem more like a parody. In the end, the 39-minute album simply fails to impress.
First Date (Original Broadway Cast Recording) was digitally released by Yellow Sound Label on September 24, 2013. Physical copies were released on October 15, 2013. It can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold.