A SPOONFUL OF SHERMAN – St James Theatre, London.
Something magical happened at the St James Theatre Studio on Monday. A Spoonful of Sherman was hardly likely to fail, given its premise; Sherman brothers’ songs being performed by some of our best musical theatre stars, in the presence of Robbie Sherman Jnr himself. A guaranteed hit, surely? Well, yes, but aside from being just a jolly good night out, it became clear quite early on that A Spoonful of Sherman was engaging with every member of the audience on a childlike level, taking us back to our youths and revealing just how strongly their work is engrained into our psyches.
The Sherman Brothers have a gargantuan portfolio of songs that stretch far beyond the Mary Poppins and Chitty ditties that the majority of the populous associate them with. Songs like ‘Ugly Bug Ball’, performed by the almost unfathomably charismatic Greg Castiglioni, had been long forgotten by me, but I found myself knowing all the words and to this very moment, I have no idea how or why. I also knew every note to the songs from The Slipper and the Rose, despite having never seen it, which is testament to the quality of Shermans’ ability to reach out to people and stay with them throughout their lives. As we are treated to song after song by the talented cast (Stuart Matthew Price, Emma Williams and Charlotte Wakefield joined Castiglioni on stage) we are collectively transported back to a simpler time when we heard them all the first time round.
Notable moments of particular brilliance were Matthew-Price and Castiglioni’s performance of The Jungle Book’s ‘I Want to be Like You’ and the enchanting Chitty medley arrangement. Musical Director Colin Billing does a stellar job weaving each song together, and plays the keys beautifully as the only accompaniment to the vocalists. Wakefield is a modern day Julie Andrews, with smooth, pitch perfect vocals, a composed demeanour and a twinkle in her eye; the perfect choice for this material. Williams transcends any memories I had of her in Love Story and betters them with her stunning soprano.
The night was sensibly structured and managed to escape the pitfalls of other concerts of its kind, by achieving the perfect balance between vocal performances and interesting anecdotes. The show was hosted by Robbie Sherman Jnr himself who takes us through his father’s portfolio almost chronologically, offering us insightful titbits, funny memories and on occasion performing a few of his own songs. His presence both awed and endeared the audience whilst limiting the talking and allowing the music to speak for itself.
A Spoonful of Sherman is a night of revelation, emotion and sheer joy, demonstrating to us that there is more than just a spoonful of the Sherman Brothers inside all of us, and they’ll stay with us for many more years to come.
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By Caroline Cronin