I had the absolute pleasure of watching It’s Only Life last week at the Union Theatre. It’s a musical revue featuring the songs of John Bucchino and has a cast of five INCREDIBLE performers. It’s about love, life and everything in between. I’ll admit that I had never heard any of John Bucchino’s music before but after this production, I really want to check out more of his work.
The piece was directed really well by Tania Azevedo, with William Whelton’s slick choreography ensuring the piece flowed seamlessly, despite having no dialogue in its entirety. The scene changes were really well executed and linked each different story really well, so as an audience it was clear there was a change of situation and we were now onto a new character. There’s always the risk with a musical revue that, without any context, there could be a lack of coherence in the performance as a whole if each song is a stand-alone number, but I didn’t get that at all with It’s Only Life and was pleasantly surprised by its overall clarity.
I should probably mention that I am a massive harmonies geek. I was also that girl at school who ran the a cappella choir, so when the performers soared into some stunning five-part harmonies, I think I was in actual heaven. For this, I’ve got to take a moment to acknowledge the Musical Director, Nick Barstow, for doing such an incredible job and for his accompaniment throughout the whole show. You forget that it’s literally just 5 singers and a piano, but it never felt lacking in energy. (When I was making notes straight after the performance for this blog post I wrote: “SUCH tight harmonies. Like so on it. Omg. SO GOOD.” 😂)
The cast consists of Will Carey, Sammy Graham, Jennifer Harding, Jordan Shaw and Noel Sullivan and WOAH they can sing. It was so nice to watch a piece where each individual performer had substantial material, with around 8 company numbers and each singer having several complete solo songs to perform as well. Each singer has such a unique sound so it was wonderful to watch them all have moments where they could shine.
I don’t think I’ve ever raved so much about lighting in a show before so, Clancy Flynn (cracking name by the way…), I salute you. Seriously though, I’ve never properly taken in light sequences before but the changes were done in such a creative way that added a whole different dimension to each scene. The Union Theatre is such a small space that I can imagine formatting lighting must be challenging, so I was so pleased that this worked so well. Who knew good lighting could be so emotional?? It was seriously good.
I don’t know if this has been done in other versions of this production before or if it was an addition for this new production, but one thing I really loved was the representation of same gender relationships. This was done in such a “normal” way, in that they didn’t make a huge deal about it because, why would you? These songs are about love and life and, to truly represent that, you’ve got to include relationships that aren’t solely heterosexual. I almost didn’t mention it in the roundup but it’s something that, because they didn’t make a big deal about it, is kind of a big deal. (You know?) I just thought it was done so beautifully and was a real reflection of love in this world, so it was absolutely right that several numbers were set with two actresses or two actors. Being a musical revue helped, I think, as it stripped away all the other layers of judgment we place onto a relationship and could just sit back and appreciate a representation of two people in love – amazing!
They involved the audience in such a wonderful way too. Don’t freak out – you don’t have to get up on stage or anything, but the informal atmosphere created by the actors properly interacting with the audience created such a warm environment which gave the piece an even greater sense of integrity and truth. Being in such a small space, you’re right in front of the performers, and with no microphones they’re so exposed but it made it such a personal and intimate experience. With nothing to hide behind, their stagecraft was made all the more impressive.
It’s a thinker, this one – and boy, did it make me think. I got really emotional in the final number but when you’ve got gorgeous music, insane vocals, beautiful lyrics and DID I MENTION THE COOL LIGHTING, what more could you want?
It’s Only Life is currently at the Union Theatre until 7th July so I urge you to try and catch it while you can.
Olivia Rose 🌹