A Spoonful of Sherman – April 2014

St James’ Theatre Studio

Originally Posted: http://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/reviews/04-2014/a-spoonful-of-sherman-st-james-theatre_34264.html

#Tweeting it – My Verdict in 140 characters

4* This will take you back to your childhood – whatever age you are now. I defy anyone not to have a smile on their face during this show.

The Sherman Brothers are two of the most famous songwriters in film history. I doubt there is a person alive who can’t at least hum a song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or who doesn’t think about “A Spoonful of Sugar” whenever they’re cleaning. But what may be unknown is that the Sherman family have been writing songs for three generations and during “A Spoonful of Sherman” the audience are taken on a wonderful trip down memory lane and treated to an amazing cornucopia of some of the best of the Sherman family’s talents.

A Spoonful of Sherman features top West End singers, Stuart Matthew Price , Greg Castiglioni, Charlotte Wakefield and Emma Williams alongside Robert’s son Robbie – who is himself a writer of musicals. Robbie narrates the evening with a clear sense of pride. If you have a renewed interest in the Shermans following the recent Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson film, Saving Mr Banks about the making of Mary Poppins, A Spoonful of Sherman and the wonderful family stories about them really rounds off the tale perfectly. The heartwarming stories about his family, from Al Sherman, his grandfather, to his uncle and father Richard and Robert Sherman and on to his own life, really give a personal touch to the evening. Projections of family photos and memories of their lives give extra feeling and emotion to the songs as well as a wider understanding of how the songs and lyrics came about. It brings a new meaning to many of the lyrics when you understand their backgrounds and this makes the evening that little bit more special for the audience.

The most important part – the singing – is also rather beautiful. The quartet aren’t “just” singers but musical stars themselves. This brings a bit of vigor to these timeless classics as they interact with one another and really perform them, bringing the characters to life for just a moment. All of the company are fantastic singers and there isn’t a moment that is not enjoyable. However, the star of the show is the incredible Emma Williams; the original stage Truly Scrumptious. She has the most beautiful voice, she captivates the audience and adapts her voice wonderfully for the various styles of songs.  Having spoken to Robbie Sherman after the show and having Williams in the company is rather special for him. His father was big fan of hers and so Robbie believes this would have made him particularly happy – especially when she sings the shunned from the stage musical “Lovely Lonely Man” – one of Robert Sherman’s favourites.

There is something for everyone in this chronological skip through the Sherman songbook. Firstly are Al Sherman’s songs, some of which may be lesser known by the younger audience members but are still quite lovely. There will still be a few which most people will recognise including Lets Get Together from The Parent Trap. Next up are all the favourites from The Sherman Brothers themselves including a medleys from Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book. Don’t worry, all your toe tapping favourites are in there and you can even have a bit of a sing along. Finally are the compositions of Robert Sherman, some of which are from his musical Bumblescratch. Songs from three generations provides the perfect completion of the story of the Sherman family.

It was interesting listening to the songs out of the context of the musicals and also listening to them properly as an adult. The lyrics are quire stunning and the expertise and immense talent of The Sherman Brothers shines through. Their songs are powerful and emotive – they’re not all about sickly sweet Disney themes, these songs really are beautifully crafted. One particularly emotional moment was when Robbie Sherman took to the piano to play River Song from Tom Sawyer, written for him by his father.

I am not going to pretend that you will enjoy this if you are not a fan of Disney musicals or of the Sherman Brothers. You will not be turned around from disliking that sweet style that they produce. However, if you love a bit of nostalgia, enjoy flying a kite, singing with orangutans, feeding the birds or wondered what the wonderful thing about Tiggers is, you will have a Truly Scrumptious evening at A Spoonful of Sherman. Leaving the theatre with a spring in my step, I don’t expect my sugar rush from this evening to be over for sometime.

Published by Playhouse Pickings

Theatre blog run by Rhiannon; a civil servant, D&D player, sci fi fan, immersive theatre lover and gin enthusiast

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