**** Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Set up by Casey’s brother-in-law, Aaron and Casey seem to have nothing in common – Aaron is uptight, ordered and nerdy while Casey is artistic and free spirited. After 5 minutes you are hoping the show will end with them in each others’ arms, or one of them disposing of the other’s corpse – either looks likely and no other outcomes would be acceptable.
Austin Winsberg’s book feels like an edgier, funnier Hallmark Channel romcom, lifted by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner’s musical numbers that are full of gags about the pitfalls of dating. Filmed at Crazy Coqs, director Dean Johnson seizes the videography opportunities with glee.
Simon Lipkin and Samantha Barks are wonderful as Aaron and Casey – Lipkin is dorky and driven, avoiding the obvious Ross Geller clichés and keeping Aaron sweet and loveable. Barks gives Casey’s hard-edged confidence just the right amount of vulnerability. Watching the two characters gradually shed their defences is a joy in the hands of such talented actors – and their voices!
Rufus Kampa makes a brief but emotional appearance as young Aaron, and Oscar Conlon-Morrey, Nicholas McLean and Danielle Steers play a multitude of characters that help and hinder the couple’s relationship. The trio get to chew the scenery and steal the show as Lipkin and Barks keep calm(ish) while imagined friends and family go nuts singing and shouting at them. McLean’s Bailout Songs as Casey’s OTT BFF Reggie and Conlon-Morrey’s bizarre omnipresent waiter would bring the house down with a live audience. You won’t want to leave your screen during the “interval”. Trust me.
As the couple navigate the stormy waters of religious differences, exes and dead mothers, the laughs come thick and fast. This might not be the deepest, most meaningful of musicals, but sometimes we just need a good laugh. This is the perfect tonic for dark October nights – an oasis of silliness, social awkwardness and sublime singing that will leave you on a high. And you don’t have to leave your home for it. Get a ticket, grab some wine, and enjoy.