The Sherman Brothers are the most successful songwriting partnership in the history of Hollywood. They have written some of the most best-loved songs of all time including the Mary Poppins soundtrack, ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and ‘It’s a Small World’, which is the most translated and performed song on earth.
Robert and Richard Sherman took after their father, Al Sherman and now Robert’s son (also called Robert J Sherman) is walking in his father’s footsteps. What A Spoonful of Sherman combines is the magical work of the Shermans’ 90-year-long back catalogue with some incredible West End talent.
Compered by Robert J Sherman, the evening begins with a medley of Al’s most famous songs – most unheard by myself, but they still feature the trademark optimistic piano chords and heartfelt lyrics. Songs include ‘The Ugly Bug Ball’ from Disney movie Summer Magic and ‘Comes-A-long a-Love’, made famous by Kay Starr.
Act One’s finale is a medley of songs from Disney movie – and then Disney stage production Mary Poppins – for which the brothers won two Academy Awards. Accompanied by musical director Colin Billing, the company of four take us on a whirlwind tour of the film’s most famous songs including ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’, ‘Feed the Birds’ and of course, ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’.
Charlotte Wakefield, most recently nominated for an Olivier Award for her performance in The Sound of Music last year, manages to embrace the Julie Andrews style most often associated with the songs, but also emulates it and creates her very own style of Poppins. Greg Castiglioni provides some swell, fun vocals as Bert, whilst Stuart Matthew Price takes on the sterner father role, his beautiful, rich tones matching perfectly. There is also Emma Williams, whose beautiful soprano voice is perfect for ‘Feed the Birds’ and, naturally, they all come together to encourage a sing-a-long at the close of act one.
Act Two features much fun from its opening: songs from Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book, with Castiglioni showing off his magnificent comic timing. Then follows a selection of slower songs, including ‘Mother Earth and Father Time’ from Charlotte’s Web and ‘Tell Him Anything’ from Slipper in the Rose, which both the ladies sing perfectly with incredible storytelling skills.
With indulgences from Robert showcasing his new work from The Penguin Pirate, and small excerpts from workshopped musical Bumblescratch, we then head into Act Two’s closing: a medley of songs from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Emma Williams, who played the original Truly Scrumptious at the London Palladium aged just 19, leads the quartet through songs that are synonymous with childhood imagination and playfulness. By the end of the show the entire audience, who span in age from children to elderly couples, is singing along to ‘It’s A Small World’, a clear reminder that the Sherman Brothers left behind a song that unites the globe.
What is special about this cabaret is that whilst it is a beautifully directed evening of incredible talent, regularly forming harmonies tight enough to make hairs stand up on the back of your neck, it is also a completely fitting tribute to the Sherman family. As Robert J Sherman said himself, what is magical about the magnificent duo is that they were able to create lyrics that provided hope in the age of not believing, and they still profoundly resonate today. You won’t find a more beautiful or talented cabaret in London at the moment.
A Spoonful of Sherman is playing at the St James Theatre until 22 April. For more information and tickets see the St James Theatre website.