"I have a very tough time silencing my inner critic," the nebbishy Aaron (Eric Ankrum) admits early in the entertaining, if inconsequential, new musical First Date. It's a sentiment with which I instantly identified, heartily laughing along with the rest of the audience even as I jotted down notes about the show's many flaws.

Every theater premiere is like a blind date, and this one didn't start so well, with a forgettable opening number and cliché-laden dialogue that had me expecting the worst. But once the show got rolling, I gradually warmed to its charms. The opposites-attract, blind-date scenario is sitcom-style comedy (Austin Winsberg, who wrote the book, lists Gossip Girl among his many TV credits), but it's good sitcom comedy. The songs are likable, the book and lyrics are sometimes very funny, and the staging includes a handful of clever sight gags. Best of all, the very talented ensemble appears to truly enjoy itself, an attitude that is infectious.

The lonely-neurotic-well-off-white-people-looking-for-love subject matter invites an unfortunate comparison to the Stephen Sondheim classic Company, but like the two main characters on their first date, I ultimately managed to put aside my notions of the ideal match to settle for what First Date really is: a pleasant and enjoyable farce.

If only the show's creators were willing to do the same.

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Two-thirds of the way through an evening filled with caricatures, stereotypes, genre numbers, and pop-culture references (Quantum Leap, M. Night Shyamalan, Google, The Biggest Loser, etc.), the show suddenly veers toward the sentimental. But it's too little, too late. First Date is best when it isn't trying to be what it's not—and it's not a show populated by fleshed-out characters we genuinely care about. Some audience members "oooh" when the two leads finally kiss, but it's that familiar two-characters-just-kissed "oooh" one hears from trained sitcom studio audiences. Enough said.

First Date is already a crowd-pleaser. Fix the opening and accept it for what it is—a not-very-romantic comedy—and the creators might have an off-Broadway success on their hands... assuming the New York audiences it seems intended for do a better job of silencing their own inner critics than I have. recommended