If everything had gone to plan, Falling Stars, the new song cycle written and conceived by Peter Polycarpou, would have been preparing to open at London’s Union Theatre this weekend. But 2020 is not a year for making plans, instead it’s been about reacting to whatever hand your dealt, and in this case the production team have managed, in just a few days, to convert the live production to a digital one, available on Stream.Theatre.
The songs that feature in Falling Stars were written at a time when the world was reeling from another global pandemic, and Polycarpou pays homage to an era that still showed the scars of the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak, while bursting with optimistic revelry for the roaring twenties.
While we can’t be sure what exactly the staged version had in store for us, the transition to digital directed by Michael Strassen, works extremely well. The set up lends itself well to the streaming concert style that has become so prolific in the absence of live performance, but what we see in this version could easily work as well in front of an audience.
The premise is that Peter Polycarpou finds a forgotten songbook tucked away at the back of an antique shop on the East Finchley High Road. The songs it contains become the song cycle that we watch and listen to, as Polycarpou invites Sally Ann Triplett to join him in his gentle meander back in time.
Between the songs, Polycarpou and Triplett share some insightful knowledge about the numbers, or their composers along with some personal associations where appropriate. Peter Polycarpou gives us an almost knowing wink as he introduces Irving Berlin’s ‘What’ll I Do’, a song that surely holds some very special memories for him.
These are, of course, songs that are almost a century old, audiences may recognise the likes of ‘Tea For Two’ from No,No, Nannette or the wartime favourite ‘Yes! We Have No Bananas’, but others are likely to come as a complete surprise. Didn’t know Charlie Chaplin was also a composer? Just listen to the wonderful ‘Eternally’ and you’ll realise the movie-star was even more talented than you first thought.
With beautiful arrangements by Mark Dickman, these old songs have been given a fantastic new lease of life. Peter Polycarpou and Sally Ann Triplett have a sparking chemistry that comes across not only in the badinage, but also in the comforting duets that just seem to envelop you as you listen.
The team behind Falling Stars may not have planned for it to be a digital production, but fate means that this lovingly curated homage to a bygone era can be enjoyed by a much wider audience, who can be grateful that this lost songbook has once again been found.
Falling Stars is available on Stream.Theatre 22nd – 29th November 2020.
Main Image: Peter Polycarpou and Sally Ann Triplett Falling Stars: Credit Paul Nicholas Dyke