There’s a light bulb moment in A Spoonful Of Sherman when you realise its magic lies not within its high production values, exquisite lighting, fantastic set, immaculate choreography or supremely talented cast, but with the memories these songs ignite. Who hasn’t grown up with Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Jungle Book? And listening to the soundtrack of my childhood brought a fair old lump to my throat.
A feel-good musical journey executed with polished flair.
A Spoonful Of Sherman is not just about the sibling partnership of Richard and Robert B Sherman who created some of the most memorable music for Walt Disney, but also their father Al and Robert B’s son Robert J. It’s quite the musical dynasty. Al Sherman was a composer in New York’s Tin Pan Alley, writing songs that were recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Bing Crosby. The first twenty minutes of tonight’s show focuses on Al’s work and paints a picture of the environment in which the Sherman Brothers were nurtured. “Always Together. Always One.”
As a show it’s unapologetically stagey; but by God it’s professionally stagey too. The cast of five – two girls and three boys – sing, dance and play through the Sherman canon with faultless precision, jazz hands and all. With over 50 songs on the list it’s less of a spoonful and more of a bucketful, packed into two three-quarter-hour acts and spanning nearly a century of work from the three generations of Shermans. Don’t expect to recognise every tune, but for many – as they tell you at the top of the show – you’ll already know the words by heart.
Gabriella Slade’s set combined with Chris Withers’ clever lighting is a visual treat, richly decorated in items that evoke the era of the Sherman Brothers’ heydays. Director and choreographer Stewart Nicholls has an eye for the detail that gives this production a professional gleam. The broad smiles on the cast’s faces seem genuinely joyous as they devour this songbook with enthusiasm. There’s even an unexpected back flip from Glen Facey.
This nostalgia-fest doesn’t take itself too seriously though. There’s plenty of humour to be found in between the schmaltz. I was literally laughing out loud at the tongue-in-cheek rendition of It’s A Small World, the butt of many a joke for anyone who’s visited a Disney theme park, and Ben Stock’s performance of Crunchy Crackers from Robert J Sherman’s recent hit Love Birds is flat out riotous.
Ultimately, A Spoonful Of Sherman is a feel-good musical journey executed with polished flair. If your eyes get dewy reminiscing about Winnie The Pooh, you’ll want to pack a lot of tissues for this show.