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It’s Only Life

Photo: wongstock/Shutterstock Photo: wongstock/Shutterstock
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Dilemmas, decisions, love affairs and break-ups are the meat and drink of musicals, so a revue of songs thematically revolving around the challenges we face in daily life feels like a distilled expression of the form.

Produced by Against the Tide, this marks the UK debut of American composer and lyricist John Bucchino’s show, which draws upon music spanning his award-winning career on and Off-Broadway.

It’s a mixed bag of songs. Lyrically inventive, moving and funny numbers, as well as genuine foot-tappers, are spread out among a few too many front-of-stage inspirational ballads that start to drag and blur into each other. A more judicious selection and shaping would help.

Even so, at its driest best, the show taps into the pulse of modern life, from therapy session performance anxiety to defiantly moving on (but not really). There’s a heavy debt to Sondheim, who’s even namechecked, but Bucchino sets his own stamp.

Strongly led by Chris Barton and Nikki Gerrard, the assembled ensemble give well-shaded performances in a variety of roles. Meanwhile, playing keyboard, musical director James McCullagh brings character and lightness to the score.

The stripped-back aesthetic of director Ben Smith’s production suits the reflective mood, even if there’s some overly fussy furniture moving at points.

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This musical revue of life can be funny, moving and foot-tapping, but needs more work
Tom Wicker
Tom is a freelance writer who also reviews for Time Out and contributes to publications including The Telegraph, Gay Times and Exeunt