“Looks Like We Made It” by ChasingRainbows is an ambitious attempt to fuse the music of Barry Manilow into the drama of a couple who have been attending marriage guidance counselling sessions for more than a few years. Does it all work though, that is the question? The answer is yes and no for me, and part of that has to be the very structure of the show and the always difficult job of using the lyrics of songs to tell the background to a story that they were never meant to tell in the first place, and the result is always a compromise, a fudge of ideas somewhere along the line.
The other big problem is that, despite Barry Manilow being a very gifted songwriter and one of the most successful musicians of his era, these songs are so closely identified with not only him, but also his whole stage show persona that it is hard to imagine them anywhere else but there. When you choose to do a show with this concept, you have to find the “big” songs that many people in the audience will know and also do everything within the very limited time allowed for a Fringe Show (50 minutes). The result is that despite big hits like Mandy, Looks Like We Made It, Could It Be Magic, Copacabana, and a few more, there are many lesser known songs out there in the back catalogue that perhaps could have been better suited to this story.
One odd contrast is that there is a huge popularity of Barry Manilow songs with a younger generation at the moment (Take That having introduced many to his songs with their cover of Could It Be Magic). However, to really understand our main dramatic theme and empathise a little with the two people in this story, you really have to be of a certain age and to have had certain life experiences, and that only time allows. This clash of songs and story line is never resolved fully.
We start at the end with this story and go backwards to then move forward again with our couple and their therapist, and the only real clue to this is the year on a piece of paper in “the office”. It is easily missed, and crucial to not only the story, but the accompanying music and that one little element needs fixed quickly. As an audience we have to know instantly where we are in the life of this relationship.
Throughout this show I was trying to match the emotions of the main story with the sound-track of the life of our couple in a more defined way and that was not always possible. Also, I really wanted to understand why the music of Barry Manilow is so important in the life of at least one person in this failing marriage. That was never explained to me other than at a very superficial “fan-girl” level, and there has to be more, some reason for words and music to resonate at a very personal level here.
Looks Like We Made It is a production that obviously has had a lot of thought, time, pre-production and effort put into it, but it still has a lot of tightening up to do both on the musical and dramatic fronts. There are too many important elements introduced to the drama that just vanish completely unresolved and some songs need to fit the vocal ranges of the singers better. This show is a work in progress that I am sure with more work can reach its possible full potential as a work of musical theatre.
Review by Tom King (c) 2021
ARTS REVIEWS EDINBURGH