Davine Productions
The Parks Theatre
Until 25 Feb 2018

Review by Sarah Westgarth

Featuring some of Adelaide’s finest musical theatre performers, “It’s Only Life” is a song cycle written by Broadway composer John Bucchino, directed by David Gauci of Davine Interventionz. The company is known for bringing original and obscure shows to Adelaide, and this is no exception. Bucchino also serves as the accompanist for this production, with his grand piano featured in centre stage. This is fitting, as the music is the focus of this piece, with character and story taking a backseat. The beauty of a song cycle is what is left unseen and unsaid; it requires you to read between the lines and make your own meaning. This can be incredibly effective; however, “It’s Only Life” never quite reaches the lofty heights it sets for itself.

Over the course of ninety minutes, the audience is treated to thirty musical numbers, linked not by a linear narrative, but by thematic ideas of love, art and connection. The five performers adopt different personas, jobs and relationships, and occupy different places and times. The music explores the risks we take as artists and as human beings, in our quest to be acceptable, loved and at peace. The arc begins in a place of fear and trepidation, and is ultimately about finding peace when we can shed our baggage, take control of our lives, and support one another.

There are two casts performing throughout the show’s run, and opening night featured Cast John – Carly Meakin, Katie Packer, Lindsay Prodea, Joshua Angeles and Fahad Farooque. These people represent the best singers and actors in Adelaide, and Cast Bucchino is similarly stacked. The performers all gets their moment in the spotlight, and they commit to each and every moment they are onstage. There are some great laughs, as well as great sadness, and while Angeles is a stand-out, all of them carry the emotional and comedic weight of the show beautifully.

David Gauci’s direction is executed flawlessly, with a set that is both functional and delightfully picturesque. Its sections and levels provide a unique space for the performers, and Gauci uses it perfectly to convey the inner and outer worlds of the characters. The choreography by Sheynade Wilkinson-Sarti is simple but effective. While the space is used well, the amphitheatre-style set up means the performers have to play to a wide arena, which often means the audience is seeing their backs. This contributes to a disappointingly common problem of the lyrics being unclear. While ambiguity works in a song cycle, very often the most basic meaning of the songs was lost, meaning the emotional impact was diminished. At times the actions of the actors did not seem related to what the song was presenting, which led to further confusion.

There are moments of brilliance, and moments when the show drags. The voices sometimes falter, and other times they are brought together in powerful, spine-tingling harmony. The performers have a strong chemistry and energy with each other, and that alone makes “It’s Only Life” worth seeing. It is never quite as funny or as touching or as poignant as you want it to be, but the talent on display is undeniable. The musical direction by Martin Cheney is to be commended; this is a challenging show for any singer, and the work has clearly been done to make it all seem effortless.

“It’s Only Life” is a clear labour of love for all involved, and David Gauci’s passion for the Adelaide musical theatre scene is something we should all treasure.

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)