Review: It's Only Life, Union Theatre

RATING: ★★★★

I wasn't sure what to expect from It's Only Life because I'd never seen a song cycle show before, but I was absolutely delighted. This beautiful musical revue of songs by John Bucchino has an impressive design and an even more impressive cast. I wasn't familiar with Bucchino's music before seeing the show, but his songs have been recorded by artists including Gavin Creel and Billy Porter.

It's Only Life weaves together stories about relationships, life, and heartbreak. Each song is a story on its own, but together they give a beautiful message of having hope and taking risks. I loved that they mixed up pairings throughout and featured both straight and same-sex couples.

The cast is made up of five brilliant performers who are all very talented in acting through song even when a specific character is only being played for a brief moment. I was particularly impressed by Jordan Shaw's ability to bring me to tears in only a few minutes. Noel Sullivan got to show off his voice's magnificent range, but songs like "Painting My Kitchen" also demonstrated his comedic talent.

Will Carey wows throughout but is at his best in "On My Bedside Table", in which he tries to convince a former lover he's over him. His incredible dancing and hilarious attitude had the audience in stitches. Recent graduate Sammy Graham is absolutely breathtaking in every one of her songs, from sad ballads to more upbeat tunes. (She's definitely one I'll be watching to see what she does next!)

Jennifer Harding was the star of the show for me as she has a gorgeous voice and acting talent in spades. Her "Sweet Dreams" is definitely my favorite number in the show, as she describes two people's paths' crossing as Sammy Graham and Will Carey dance.

I also enjoyed that there was some mild audience interaction in the show (don't worry, nothing too extreme!). During the end of the interval, the cast members come out and chat with the audience. I had a lovely conversation with Noel Sullivan about being in graduate school.

The design of the show was wonderful. Justin Williams and Jonny Rust's set is amazing, with multiple set pieces, a higher platform, and a great pastel color palette. I'd actually like to move into it! It definitely makes the small space of the Union Theatre seem even larger. Clancy Flynn's lighting enhanced the show and really helped with the transitions between numbers.

The show also has a beautiful style of movement, choreographed by William Whelton. Sometimes a show cycle can feel like little more than a concert, I think, but the dance elevated it to a true musical. I loved the show having a pianist that you could see from the audience and the sound was well balanced despite not having microphones.

This little show is well suited to the intimate space that it's currently in, though I would love to see it have a future beyond this run. Under Tania Azevedo's direction, the five performers build many storylines from Bucchino's beautiful music that will tug at your heart. From the gorgeous harmonies to the laugh-out-loud comedy moments, this show has something for everyone.

It's Only Life is running at the Union Theatre until 7 July. I highly recommend checking it out if you have time before them because it's a delightful, meaningful show that left me feeling renewed. You can buy tickets here.

I was given a press ticket to review this show, but all opinions are my own. 
Photo Credit: Pamela Raith 
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