Falling Stars

Peter Polycarpou
Thomas Hopkins & Michael Quinn for Ginger Quiff Media in association with Guy Chapman and Bailey Harris-Kelly
The Union Theatre

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Peter Polycarpou and Sally Ann Triplett Credit: Paul Nicholas Dyke
Peter Polycarpou Credit: Paul Nicholas Dyke
Sally Ann Triplett Credit: Paul Nicholas Dyke

Falling Stars was due to play at the Union Theatre in November but on the first day of rehearsal came news of lockdown, so with no live performance, the company came together to create this filmed adaptation, shot at the Union in a simple setting of a drape, a skeletal standard lamp, a picture frame and some chairs.

A sequence of songs, presented with theatrical showmanship, you’d never guess that this version had been made in only three days as Peter Polycarpou (who had the idea and wrote the script) and Sally Ann Triplett perform a tribute to the composers and lyricists of the 1920s and 1930s.

It is shaped on the premise that a folder of old sheet music is found in a Finchley antique shop that proves a rich source of songs to be rediscovered. They are introduced with occasional dips into musical history and facts about composers and lyricists, plus a bit of badinage between the performers. They include a few still remembered, such as “Yes! We Have No Bananas “ and “Tea for Two”, but had you ever heard of Frank Silver and Irving Cohn or Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar, the partnerships who wrote them? Irving Berlin and Arthur Freed will be more familiar, but this really is a treasure trove of songs that are easy on the ear and full of feeling.

There is a delightful selection of songs by Charlie Chaplin: did you know he was a quite prolific composer despite not being able to read music? They include “Falling Star” (which prompts the show’s title), sensitively sung by Sally Ann Triplett, while Peter Polycarpou produces a voice that sounds perfectly matched to the period.

Whether nostalgically romantic or as cheekily comic as “When It’s Night-Time In Italy It’s Wednesday Over Here”, these songs are delivered with style, not least in a catchy bilingual treatment of “You Know You Belong to Somebody Else (So Why Don’t You Leave Me Alone)” by James Monaco and Eugene West.

With musical direction by Mark Dickman, Jean Grey’s design and Michael Strassen’s direction, this is a very enjoyable encounter online but, although the planned run had to be cancelled, it is still possible to book for two live performances on 8 and 9 January at the Union Theatre.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton