REVIEW: It’s Only Life (Union Theatre)

‘It’s Only Life’ is a musical revue comprised entirely of songs by John Bucchino. “Who’s that?” you’re asking, because I frankly also found myself asking the same thing. According to a quick Google, Bucchino is an American composer who has written the music for several musicals, as well as releasing CDs of his own songs with artists such as Liza Minnelli and Art Grafunkel singing them. Songs like these:

 

“It’s Only Life” is a revue which takes Bucchino’s stand-alone songs and places them together, shaping them into something whichΒ sort of (but doesn’t really) has any sense in their collective-ness. Directed by Tania Azevedo, the show pieces together these stand alone songs using five performers who sing and move their way through them, including some transitional parts in which the performers sing things they are afraid of (e.g. falling in love, failing, the usual).

Unfortunately, for this show, it was a case of style over substance. All of the performances were competent and well-sung, though at times quiet, but I was instead more drawn to the set. Designer Justin Williams has had a field day building a set which is seems like pots of pastel paint have been splashed over the stark white set of a children’s TV show. Stuck to the wall are shoes, violins, a pink Dalek, and half of chairs, amongst other things. It is utterly mesmerising, and certainly makes a bog-standard musical revue seem much more interesting; I found myself looking around the stage trying to spot the small additions to the set. The lighting (Clancy Flynn), too, was as equally colourful, though lighting changes did seem to happen every other verse and began to be overwhelming.

it's only life 1

Though a beautiful show aesthetically, the content itself just wasn’t for me. Unfortunately, songs just didn’t resonate with me, and I did feel as if I was at a drama school showcase. I can’t quite explain how that feels, but as if every single expression and every single eyebrow raise was choreographed? The emotion in that way just did not feel real or come across to me, as an audience member. Instead it was going through the motions of happy, heartbroken, and so on.
I knew what I *should* be feeling, but instead I was bored. Most of the songs seemed to sound the same, and no amount of pastel paint being smacked on an overall-covered bum was going to make it more appealing for me. However, some stand out performances included the company’s playful rendition of ‘That Smile’ which showed some great relationships forming alongside some comedy. Will Carey’s performance of “On My Bedside Table” was equally comic and heartbreaking, with excellent delivery to an unsuspecting audience member in the front row.

‘It’s Only Life’ is a show most definitely for fans of Bucchino’s extensive back catalogue. It’s design and the strength of the performers has to be commended, but if a musical with a narrative is what you’re looking for, then perhaps this isn’t the show for you.

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