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Photo Credit :: John Bucchino
Arts & Entertainment
It's Only Life :: John Bucchino
By Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
January 27, 2006 
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If your vision of Manhattan nightlife has been shaped by black-and-white photographs of swanky clubs shimmering in candlelight, women in gloves, men in black tie, then you might be forgiven for thinking you arrived after the party ended. Ah, but not if you are fortunate enough to find yourself seated in the Allen Room on a chilly January night, listening to the music of John Bucchino sung by a toothsome quintet of talented Broadway performers. The lights of Central Park South dancing up and down the eastward-facing glass wall, apartments and their inhabitants visible, and then not, as lamps flicker on and off, and you’re warm and cozy in leather seats, candlelight flickering at the tables, and Bucchino himself at the Steinway, and suddenly, it hits you: this is the New York you moved here for – and you are home.

And it’s all the better for having Gavin Creel, his arms outstretched, singing in front of you. You’ve followed his career since he first arrived in town, fresh-faced from Michigan, and now, here he is, a Broadway ingenue singing Bucchino’s articulate and heartfelt songs. It’s a lovely match: Creel’s earnestly romantic persona conveying the inherent yearning in Bucchino’s lyrics.

Bucchino writes songs which capture perfectly the life well-lived – that is to say, the considered life – amidst the awe-inspiring grandeur of Manhattan’s towers and endless possibilities. The parties, the connections, the meetings with the rich and powerful, the mornings-after, the misgivings – the full gamut of Manhattan’s emotional terrain is registered in Bucchino’s anecdotal songs. Just as it’s possible to read an entire life in a painting by Vermeer, so does Bucchino enable you to see the life, the relationship, the reasons why and why not, and the lessons learned, all perfectly-shaped in a four-minute song. With titles such as “Painting My Kitchen,” “When You’re Here,” “I’m Not Waiting,” and “I’ve Learned to Let Things Go,” the characters in Bucchino’s songs are smart enough to carry on, even when confronting life’s existential crises. And in hearing these songs, you can’t help but be reminded of Stephen Sondheim’s work, particularly “Company,” with its tales of young sophisticates in search of connection in the big city.

Then, late into the program, Brooks Ashmanskas takes hold of “If I Ever Say I’m Over You,” a song so hauntingly beautiful in its rendering of loss as to make such a state almost desirable, and with sublime control, offers it up to the one no longer there. This is the ineffable sadness of life made palpable. How any of us go on is a wonder, when we know what awaits us – and yet, it is exactly that acuteness of feeling which makes life bearable. To feel, and to feel so intensely, and to love, and to love well, and to let go when need be – these are the emotions with which Bucchino’s characters wrestle. And as shown in songs such as “Grateful” and “This Moment,” Bucchino makes it clear that in the face of life’s confusions and disappointments, the wise are those who recognize this life’s many blessings.

And to find yourself sitting in the Allen Room, surrounded by such beauty and serenaded by such talent, such evocative and sensitive performances, the kind that linger long into the night and well into sleep, becoming the stuff of dreams, is to realize all at once, you’re living it, the glamour and the romance, no longer just a fantasy, and this is your true Manhattan life.