IT'S ONLY LIFEMusic and Lyrics by John Bucchino
Directed by Michael Serrecchia
Musical Director - Terry Dobson
Set Design - Jeffrey Schmidt
Costume Design - Bruce R. Coleman
Lighting Design - David Gibson
Stage Manager - Sally Cole
Reviewed Performance: 11/18/2011
Reviewed by Mary L. Clark, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Mr. Bucchino is a prolific composer and lyricist whose many musical scores, film and cabaret songs have been performed and recorded by artists as diverse as Art Garfunkel or Yo-Yo Ma. Upon hearing his songs in It's Only Life, you realize his revue is obviously a very personal reflection on his own life and/or that of those friends around him.
Starting with the opener "The Artist at 40", Bucchino runs through all the optimisms and anxieties, elations and depressions, new loves and break ups that, well, life brings to all of us. The revue goes through recognizable transitions everyone has, at one time or another, gone through - hopeful longing, self-doubt, love, fulfillment, resignation, surrender and gratitude - ending with the song "A Glimpse Of The Weave" to tie up the revue's life threads.
As with films, I relish observing set designs and costumes for bits of artistic symbolism - the whys in the designers' choices. When Theatre Too's doors opened, I immediately noticed paper cones, like large snow-cones made of newspaper, on the inside of the door and along the playing area's back wall. My first thought, quickly rejected, was that they were to sound proof the show from the possible performance above but, as the show progressed, Jeffrey Schmidt's design held, at least to me, more clarity and meaning. The set also had a
wooden bench three cubes, a tatami-like bed, and stools that all maneuvered into a bar counter, bus stop, therapist couch, bedroom and the other "locales" of each song.
But it was those cones, pointed directly at us, and a fish-eye mirror (and I love this definition: "used to compress a wide field of view into a narrower one"), reflecting a distorted image of ourselves, that intrigued me most. Why cones of newspaper, being a daily recalling of life events so easily crushed and tossed away? And the mirror's wide perspective of the entire audience so none were entirely out of its reach.
Softly lit spotlights framed the soloists and gentle washes filled the area. Then designer David Gibson defined songs of anger, defiance, and finality in red with lights that shifted the whole back wall into red daggers, practically dripping. I warned you I tend to look for deeper meaning.
Bruce R. Coleman took a light, trendy approach in costuming the five singers - easy going boots, pants, tops, vests, hoodies, jackets, shoulder bags, and soft berets, caps or scarves, depending on the "season" - all in shades of black and grey. Everything was on the street current and casual.
It's Only Life had no actual dialogue per se but Bucchino's songs spoke volumes. They were like a play's scenes or whole acts, telling little stories all in themselves. Either Bucchino or Director Michael Serrecchia visualized small vignettes around each song and, while some were overly "mimed", what was most wonderful about them and the songs was how refreshingly genderless they were in interpretation. Not delineating who could or should love who, Theatre Too's production was acted and sung in a perfect world's balance with all of life's loves and losses. In their poignancy, I found myself going out of the songs and into my own recollections and remembrances.
Both Director Michael Serrecchia and Musical Director Terry Dobson blended five unique voices into a most pleasant, cohesive unit. While ensemble is such an overused description, I would be hard-pressed to individualize each as the songs rang truest when their voices became one. There were some standout solos with the soulful "It Feels Like Home" sung by Angel Velasco or "If I Ever Say I'm Over You" with Seth Grugle.
Erica Harte related all the crazy things we'll do to make relationships fit in "Love Quiz" and her "Love Will Find You In Its Time", sung with Velasco, was a fragile, delicate duet. Jennifer Noth had an earthy voice that first lent some sardonic quality to "Sweet Dreams", and then held such warmth and forgiveness in "I've Learned To Let Things Go". Darius-Anthony Robinson kept looking for that special someone in "Playbill" and "What You Need". His gospel-rich "Grateful" brought the revue full circle, reminding us of our own blessings.
Terry Dobson, Theatre Three's long standing musical MC, put his talents to work again as the revue's one man band, playing the score on a beautiful white piano, with the occasional pre-recorded percussion and bass.
As stated earlier, I was not educated to the world of John Bucchino so was most pleased to discover It's Only Life was not the typical "best of" musical revue normally put together by songwriters. His songs, able to stand sturdily on their own, when joined became a more reflective, thought-filled evening then any normal song and dance performance. His songs, in Sondheim fashion, are not easily hummable tunes you'll remember going back home. You might not really even remember the words, but you will definitely remember how you felt while
they were being sung by this obviously tight-knit group of singers who opened up their voices and their hearts to remind us that, after all, it's only life.
Theatre Too, at Theatre Three, 2800 Routh Street, Dallas, TX 75201
Runs through December 11th
Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, and
Sundays at 2:30 pm.
***Note that during Thanksgiving weekend there will be
added performances on Saturday, Nov. 26th at 2:30 pm (as well
as 8:00 pm), and Sunday, Nov. 27th at 2:30 pm.
Tickets are $25 - $30 and may be purchased by calling their
box office at 214-871-3300, option #1 or by going online to