Falling Stars

The Falling Stars Creative Team

Falling Stars was due to be be performed live at the Union Theatre in January 2021 but obviously now we will be waiting until the situation with Lockdown is clearer before we are able to announce any new dates.


You can now watch the trailer!

At very short notice we were lucky to have Mark Dickman as our MD for this recording.

Songs written during the golden age of songwriting from the 1920s and the music of Charlie Chaplin combine to make a charming evening of hidden classics. These songwriters were at the beginning of their careers and they went on to become some of the most famous songwriters of their generation.  Charlie Chaplin (Smile, Eternally), Irving Berlin (What’ll I Do?),  Arthur Freed (An American In Paris, The Wizard Of Oz), Meredith Wilson (The Music Man), Vincent Youmans (Tea for Two, No No Nanette), Irving Caesar (Anniversary Song) and many many more.

This article by Peter appeared in Broadway World.

I was walking along East Finchley High Street and I found a very lovely old antique shop that I decided to have a look in and when I looked at the back of the store there was a paper column of what appeared to be sheet music. I’ve always had a very keen interest in collecting music especially Victorian parlour songs. And so, I was intrigued by this two-and-a-half-foot mass-column of music. My inspiration really was about bringing to life the forgotten melodies from this old songbook. I realised that some of the songwriters that I was looking at and reading the music of in my head, were young; in their late teens or early 20’s and people who later in their careers were to become giants in either publishing or songwriting. So, I think I realised quite quickly that I had the makings of a show about the early writings of these writers from the 1920s. I’ve also always been a huge fan of the music and career of Charlie Chaplin and not many people know that he wrote music for all of his films even though he couldn’t read music himself. Silent movies weren’t in fact silent at all, there was normally pianist or a whole orchestra accompanying the film itself sometimes with sound effects! In fact, Chaplin played three musical instruments the Cello the Violin and the Piano, but he needed the services of a guy called Meredith Wilson to put the music on paper. He would whistle the tunes to Meredith Wilson who would then notate the music for him.

When these songwriters were writing these songs there had just been the most appalling pandemic in 1918. It was called the Spanish flu pandemic. The numbers who died were estimated to be between 30 and 50,000,000 people. That was about one in three of the world’s population. So, I think your readers will immediately see the parallels between what happened then and what’s happening now. People wanted to forget. These songs helped them to do just that. They’d also just had the First World War (1914-18) which cut a huge scythe through the younger population. The songs, however, had a strange untouched quality about them, and they express the spirit of the age and perhaps a moment frozen in time. So, I guess what I really want to do is revive some of these forgotten melodies, give people a chance to hear these songs again, help them to understand the context in which these songs were written and enjoy the early writings of these budding songwriters.

We are living in an almost cataclysmic and catastrophic time for the Theatre. We are living through a lack of human contact for the most part because we are forced to live apart from our loved ones or are forced to visit them under the most stressful circumstances. We are not allowed to socialise properly together, we have curfews, whole regions of the country have their borders closed and it feels like we are more divided as a country than we have ever been before. The Theatre it is a medium for contact, for social engagement, for human interaction, it helps us to understand the nature of what it is to be human, so now more than ever we need Theatre to help us understand what we’re going through. We also need Theatre to take us out of ourselves to help us forget, to entertain us, to give us a good night out and that is why Theatre is so important at the moment. I guess what I’m trying to do with Falling Stars is show that it’s still possible to have a night out in a safe place surrounded by people who care about the same thing and just need a bit of escapist fun. There’s no real politics in the show, just a whole bunch of lovely charming songs with some stories about the writers and their lives.

A Q & A For Centre Stage.

Falling Stars will run at the Union Theatre in London on Sunday 8th and 9th December.

1. I just want to start by saying how lovely this show sounds! How did the idea for Falling Stars initially come about?

Thanks, it’s inspired by an actual event. I walked into an antique shop in East Finchley a few years ago and found this very old worn out hard-covered volume of someone’s personal collection of songs. I knew something about the period because I collect songs here and there and as I was looking through the book, singing the songs in my head, the idea occurred to me that these old songs were not only beautifully crafted but for the most part, entirely forgotten. I made the show not long after that. Sally-Ann and I then did the show a few months later at the Jermyn Street Theatre and it went down well. Then just recently it seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring these songs back as they mostly were written just after the most devastating Influenza Pandemic of 1918. I’ve also always been a fan of Charlie Chaplin’s music and not many people know that he wrote the music for all of his films even though he couldn’t read music himself. His songs are included in the show and the title is taken from one of the titles to his songs; Falling Star.

2. This production is set to include some of the earliest songs and forgotten melodies of composers who changed the entertainment industry forever.

Could you possibly tell us a little about the effect these songs and composers have had on your life so far?

Well, if you look for instance at the musical films of An American In Paris, Singing In The Rain, Gigi and The Wizard Of Oz, these movies were part of my MT education. They are kind of source material for anybody wanting to know something about the evolution of musicals in film. Well, Arthur Freed, whose early songs are included in Falling Stars, went on to produce those films. Freed was in his late teens and early twenties when he started writing songs with people like Vincent Monaco who a little later on wrote a smash hit of the 1920’s called No No Nanette which Doris day starred in when it was filmed. Al Jolson’s songs were written mainly by Buddy De Silva, Ray Henderson and Lew Brown. They were cutting their teeth with a lot of the songwriters we are performing the songs of. Al Jolson was a huge influence on my early career and at one stage I was going to play him when they were recasting Jolson when it was in the West End many years ago. So you can see how these songwriters’ early songs have influenced my career in one way or another. As I said before the music of Charlie Chaplin has always been a very important part of my musical upbringing, so his career and his songs have meant an awful lot to me over the years too.

3. The 1920’s is an era which so many of us romanticize and dream about, but if you could bring one element of the roaring 1920’s back into the 2020s, which would you pick and why?

Well, the Foxtrot, The Tango, The Charleston and the Black Bottom were famous dances of the 1920s and I’d love to see those revived in one way or another on the dance floor, however, if I was bringing back an element of the roaring ’20s, it would be the fantastic art deco architecture and furniture, lavish costumes and dresses, the jewellery and that feeling of living for today. They had just survived the most extraordinary time of war and pandemic and they just wanted to forget, so it would be having that freedom of expression, joie de vivre and fun. I’d revive a post-pandemic world.

4. I think it’s fair to say that the events of the last eight or so months have been detrimental to the arts industry as a whole, and especially the world of live theatre.

After everything that has happened, could you possibly tell us why you believe live theatre is so important in these uncertain times?

Why you might ask is human contact important in these uncertain times, why do relatives try to travel hundreds of miles to see their parents, their loved ones; because human contact is as important as living. I think the Theatre is, well it has been for me, a way of life that is about contact…making contact with an audience. So, all Theatre is about understanding the nature of what it means to be human in one way or another and we have lost touch with that. We have lost so much Theatre and with the best will in the world even though I love live streams they are no substitute for the experience of being in a Theatre either as an actor or as an audience member and experiencing a live performance that is different every single time; that is as much dependent on the audience viewing as much as it is upon the actors performing.

5. What advice would you give to somebody looking to support their favourite artists or venues at the moment?

It’s safe to go to the theatre, don’t be afraid. You will be welcomed with open arms. You will always be cherished as an audience member and a supporter of the Theatre but now you will be a welcome friend. If you really want to help and can afford to, your local Theatre venue is probably no more than a few miles away and will in all likelihood be closed at the moment; it might be a pub it might be a medium-sized Theatre, it might even be one of the larger theatres if you live close to one, but they all need your support now. The Theatre and those who work in it is close to catastrophe, we are living at the edge on the edge of a precipice over which some Theatre companies are tipping and may not survive. You can also help by contributing to the Fleabag Fund set up by Phoebe Waller-Bridge or The Royal Theatrical fund of which I’m a director. All your donations will go towards helping either out of work actors who can’t get any funding from government or help in any way, those who have fallen ill or are infirm And cannot help themselves. In the last six months, we have distributed nearly £500,000 worth of aid.

6. As we were preparing to step into the new decade last December so many of us had the highest of hopes for 2020. Obviously things haven’t really gone to plan.

If you could only pick one, what would be your one hope for once we see the back of the pandemic?

My biggest hope would be that we haven’t lost too many of our theatres and that is my greatest worry. My hope for the future is the same as the hope that people had at the end of the Influenza pandemic of 1918 and that is that we can look forward to closer ties with perhaps a family member now, a more intimate relationship with someone that we hadn’t known before this pandemic, a neighbour maybe. I hope we all understand how important human contact is. I hope that we learn to love each other bit more

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