As the era of Music Hall began to fade away in the early twentieth century, a new breed of Musical Theatre composition began to develop, more closely resembling the contemporary styles we now favour. Whilst writers retained some of the comedic and storytelling elements of Music Hall songs, they began to lean more toward narrative, creating more emotional melodies and deeper refrains. Lots of these composers are still well known today, their songs still part of many a repertoire. It truly was a golden age of music.
Falling Stars begins with a (presumably fictitious) scene in which Peter Polycarpou narrates how he happened upon an old songbook in an antique shop. After singing for the shopkeeper to secure the book for a bargain price of £20, he begins exploring the pages of the tome, wherein he finds the musical selection which becomes the evening’s entertainment. Collating some of the 20s most notable musical works, from Irving Berlin to Charlie Chaplin, Falling Stars also features a lot of little-known numbers.
I thoroughly appreciate the concept of the production, however, the show doesn’t seem as fully conceived as I would have expected. Whilst the songs themselves are astutely selected, featuring a range of numbers including both familiar and intriguingly new, the format of the show leaves a lot to be desired. At first, we are following Polycarpou on story-led exploration, but this quickly fades into a documentary on songs and their artists. Even if the scenario that was set up in the opening of the show could not be continued, it would be preferable to add a personal relation to the songs from Polycarpou’s perspective rather than just a history lesson, given that this appears to be his journey that we are following.
Polycarpou is joined by Sally Ann Triplett, sharing together in the songs and their backgrounds, as well as each taking the reins with solos at moments throughout the night. Both give amazing performances with well placed vocal approaches to each song, displaying a great range of vocality and character. The textual delivery was also brilliantly natural and easy to the ear, fitting in with the smooth, cinematic staging and direction.
The execution of Falling Stars is without a doubt on point. Had the overall structure of the production been more clearly defined, then I would be coming away with a far better appreciation of the show. As it is, however, the format was too jarring and set up an expectation from the start from which I felt let down. Ultimately this show is a celebration of the music of the early 1900s, and through song selection and performance, this was certainly achieved.
Due to the Lockdown, Falling Stars performances have been rescheduled for 8th & 9th January 2021. For more information and to book, visit the Union Theatre website.