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Review of A Spoonful of Sherman at Greenwich Theatre

A Spoonful of Sherman
A Spoonful of Sherman

The Sherman family have been in songwriting business for over a century. Spanning three generations, Al Sherman, his sons Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman (known as “the Sherman Brothers”) and Al’s grandson, Robert J. Sherman, have produced an impressive catalog of uplifting melodies and lyrics for film, theatre and radio etc. Their music has been part of countless childhoods and now Robert J. Sherman has crafted and collated his family’s expansive repertoire into the show A Spoonful of Sherman which is currently touring the UK.

Over 50 Sherman songs (a staggering if slightly ambitious quantity) feature in the programme. Some are clustered in medleys e.g. when the story recounts the more famous Sherman projects such as Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Others were standalone numbers due to their significance in the Sherman family history.

Gabriella Slade’s simple set gives the appearance of a songwriting space: office storage units with handy places for props, a mixture of steel frames and exposed brick adorned with fairy lights beautifully frames the two pianos utilised in the performance and allows the audience to focus on the action on stage. Chris Withers’ lighting design highlights the set and makes it obvious who of the five actors on stage should have your attention at any given time. Stewart Nicholls’ direction and choreography made clear when a new song was coming along and was playful and fun, highlighting the chemistry between the cast.

The quintet of actors seamlessly whisks the audience from one song to the next, with appropriate narrative to move along the story of the Sherman family. Mark Read and Ben Stock ably accompany the cast on piano (and occasionally ukulele). At times it felt there was potential for a more elaborately orchestrated show with a larger ensemble but it seemed apparent the feel of the piece was meant to reflect a singalong around a piano, which is where much of the Shermans’ writing would have taken place.

Sophie-Louise Dann beautifully led some of the heart-warming Sherman anthems such as ‘Feed the Birds’ and ‘The Age of Not Believing’. A highlight was Glen Facey flying around the stage in a monkey-like manner during ‘I Wanna Be Like You’. Jenna Innes’ crisp and clean soprano was practically perfect when she stepped into Mary Poppins‘ shoes towards the end of Act I.

The two pianists also got to show off their vocal talents. Ben Stock dazzled the crowd with tongue twisters ‘The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers’ and the lesser-known ‘Crunchy Crackers’ from Robert J Sherman’s Edinburgh Fringe musical Love Birds, but also got to show his more sincere side in ‘Hushabye Mountain’. When the cast joined in harmony their wall of sound was tight, accurate and really quite mesmerising. ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’ (led by Mark Read) was a rousing finale and had the whole audience swaying and singing along. On occasion, it seemed the piece would be better suited in a cocktail bar with so many songs crammed into the programme instead of being a theatrical production. That aside it was very enjoyable. The audience were humming many of the tunes on the way out.

A Spoonful of Sherman is a whirlwind tour of the Sherman song catalog. I was surprised at just how many songs from my childhood had come from the one family and this show is a wonderful tribute to the mass of work the Shermans have produced over the years.

4 stars

Review by Fiona Scott

Singing and dancing through 100 years of Sherman Family music; and you already know all of the songs by heart!
A compelling musical stage show for all the family, celebrating the life and music of multi-award-winning Disney songwriters The Sherman Brothers (Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh), Tin Pan Alley songwriter Al Sherman (writer for artists including Frank Sinatra, Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald), and present-day composer, Robert J. Sherman. Come with us on a journey through the songbook of your childhood!

Hits include: Let’s Go Fly A Kite!, It’s A Small World (After All), I Wanna Be Like You, The Ugly Bug Ball, Comes A-Long A-Love, You’re Sixteen, Feed The Birds, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Hushabye Mountain, A Spoonful Of Sugar, and more!

Starring Olivier Award-nominated Sophie-Louise Dann (Gary Barlow’s The Girls Musical), Glen Facey (Hairspray), Jenna Innes (Animus), Mark Read (Boyband A1, Guys and Dolls) and Ben Stock (Beauty and the Beast).

Music composed by Richard M Sherman & Robert B Sherman and Al Sherman and Robert J Sherman.

A Spoonful of Sherman
http://www.aspoonfulofsherman.com/

Sophie-Louise Dann in Spoonful of Sherman
Review of SimG Record’s A SPOONFUL OF SHERMAN – Terry Eastham, July 2015

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