Go and see a musical featuring songs by composer/lyricist John Bucchino they said. Now, I know my musical theatre but have to admit I had no idea who this John Bucchino chap was. After a quick bit of research, well I put his name into Wikipedia, I had some more information on Bucchino and his work. But I wanted to know more, so off I toddled to the Union Theatre where they are currently staging his 2005 musical revue It’s Only Life.
The show comprises of twenty-three of Bucchino’s songs performed by a very strong cast comprising of Will Carey, Sammy Graham, Jennifer Harding, Jordan Shaw & Noel Sullivan in a wonderful multi-layered set designed by Justin Williams & Jonny Rust – but more of that later. The cast are accompanied by Musical Director Nick Barstow on the piano and the whole effect suggests that this is going to be a gentle but highly enjoyable evening, which it did indeed turn out to be. Each song is pretty much a story in its own right and was performed either by a solo singer, a duo or the company. Director Tania Azevedo impressed me with the staging so that the love songs were sung or staged as between same sex as well as more traditional male/female couples. In fact during ‘That smile’ the line of who was suffering pangs of unrequited love for whom covered pretty much every variation of genders possible.
The set was a sort of two storey ‘house’ painted white but with lovely pieces in green, red or blue, (or variations of all three) to act as accent colours. Clancy Flynn’s lighting was well designed to match the mood of the songs as we run through the tunes. Favourites for me included ‘It Feels like Home’, ‘Love Will #find You in its Time’ – a great song that works so well for the Tinder generation. There was also ‘On My Bedside Table’ which contains some very poignant and funny lyrics, and also gave Choreographer William Whelton a chance to introduce Will’s hips to a very appreciative audience. Overall, my absolute favourite was ‘Grateful’ performed by Noel which was so powerful and well performed that I had a lump in my throat as he sang this almost spritual song. All five of the cast really delivered a first class show. All of them seemed to really be in touch with their respective songs, in fact at one point during ‘Grateful’ it looked as if Jennifer had a tear in her eye. There was a real feeling of commitment from each of the cast to the songs and to each other which gave the evening a real family feeling about it.
The only issue I had was that as they weren’t wearing microphones and I was sat on the same side as the piano, there were occasions when the music rather drowned out the singer, particularly on a quieter number where the performer was the other side of the stage. But this was a minor point and didn’t occur all the time.
Whilst I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to the theatre, I really enjoyed this production. There was something about the overall show that made me think of sitting, relaxing by the side of a river, sipping a glass of wine, taking in everything around me and letting the stresses of the week disappear off in the distance.
Although the songs aren’t linked by any dialogue or overarching storyline, there is a definite arc to the show which I took to be one of finding happiness in everything, stop trying to find love it will find you and finally, perhaps most importantly, stop being so serious, It’s Only Life after all.
Review by Terry Eastham
It’s Only Life is a musical revue featuring the songs of John Bucchino. His songs have been recorded and performed by Judy Collins, Patti LuPone, Yo-Yo Ma, Audra MacDonald, Liza Minnelli, Art Garfunkel and many others.
Conceived by director Daisy Prince and the award-winning songwriter, It’s Only Life is about longing, fulfillment, loss, triumph and ultimately wisdom.
Director – Tania Azevedo
Musical Director – Nick Barstow
Choreographer – William Whelton
Designer – Justin Williams/Jonny Rust
Lighting Designer – Clancy Flynn
Casting Director – Jane Deitch
General Manager – Chris Matanlé
Producer – Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment
MUSIC AND LYRICS by John Bucchino
CONCEIVED by Daisy Prince & John Bucchino
Presented by arrangement with R&H Theatricals Europe
13th June – 7th July 2018