★★★★ | A Spoon Of Sherman, St. James Theatre
Billed as ‘The Songbook of Your Childhood’, this celebration of one of the world’s best-loved songwriting duos is so very much more than that; it is the songbook – nay, the soundtrack – to my life.
The first Act opens with an Al Sherman medley. A prolific songwriter in the 1930s and 40s, Al Sherman wrote for Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, and many others. It’s very evident from hearing these numbers that such talent runs in the genes. His sons, Robert and Richard, would go on to continue this fine art for many years as The Sherman Brothers, and their songbook provides the main focus of the evening.
The musicals the brothers are best known for fly in thick and fast – Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Parent Trap, Charlotte’s Web, Winnie the Pooh, The Slipper and the Rose, and so many more. Delightfully, A Spoonful of Sherman also includes some of their lesser-known, but no less delightful, back catalogue.
The four singers – Greg Castiglioni, Stuart Matthew Price, Charlotte Wakefield and Emma Williams – are supremely talented and versatile, swinging with apparent ease between ballads and the more lively numbers; between comical and serious without a flinch. This is never more evident than the perfectly executed leap from The Jungle Book’s “I Wanna Be Like You” to “The Age of Not Believing”, from Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Now, I may be a little bit biased here (I hereby confess to a lifelong obsession with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), but Emma Williams stands out for me. Partly because every time I see her, I remember the many trips I took to the Palladium while she played Truly Scrumptious in Chitty, but also because of her exceptionally sweet and clear voice. Her performance of “Mother Earth and Father Time” from Charlotte’s Web is beautiful and a definite highlight of the evening.
A Spoonful of Sherman is hosted by the affable Robert J Sherman, the son of Robert B Sherman. An accomplished songwriter in his own right, we are treated to a few numbers from his musical, Bumblescratch, which workshopped in London last year. It is clear he has inherited his father’s, and grandfather’s, innate talent.
And then, it’s here. As sad as it is to leave the rest of the evening behind, I hear a few distinctive notes which signal the start of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang medley and the world melts away. It is everything I want it to be, and there can be no higher praise than that from such a devoted fan.
All in all, A Spoonful of Sherman provides an entertaining insight into 90 years of songwriting history. In every note, this exquisite tapestry of song is an entirely fitting tribute, not only to the Shermans’ talent, but to the very art of songwriting.
A Spoonful of Sherman plays at 19:45 on Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 April at the St James Theatre. Tickets are £18-£25 from https://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/events/a-spoonful-of-sherman-2