Theatre Review: A Spoonful of Sherman - St James Theatre, London ✭✭✭✭

A Spoonful of Sherman
St James Theatre 

Review by Duncan Brown

Monday 13th January 2014: Review type shows can be problematic, with very few emulating the success of Side by Side by Sondheim, or indeed Putting it Together, the next offering in the main house at the beautiful St James Theatre in Victoria. However I'm pleased to report that there is real potential in this offering focussing on not just the Sherman Brothers but grandfather & son with the show covering 90 years of the family's music.

The structure definitely needs to be tweaked to balance the length of the two acts but the main problem (as always with these type of shows!) is not what to include but what you have to omit. Personally I think including a large number of Al and Robert J's output is slightly indulgent when such great scores as The Aristocrats, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and the 1974 Broadway hit, Over Here are excluded.

That aside it was a real treat of an evening which managed to balance the obvious hits of Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which respectively ended each act, with less well known songs from The Parent Trap (1961) and The Slipper and the Rose (1976).

The singers were all on top form; incredibly polished and word perfect, with not a score in sight and adding backing vocals for each other which is impressive for a one-off concert performance that presumably was put together very quickly.

Emma Williams has come a long way since making her West End debut in Chitty, twelve years ago, with an incredibly varied career and doesn't disappoint here using her full range and acting skills with such heartfelt sophistication in For Now For Always (The Parent Trap) and beautiful soprano in Suddenly it Happens (Slipper and the Rose).

Charlotte Wakefield again demonstrated why she was cast as Maria at Regents Park channelling the spirit (and crystal clear delivery) of Julie Andrews in the Mary Poppins segment and her versatility with the impassioned range of Tell Him Anything (Slipper and the Rose) and energetic fun of the shuffle number Comes A-long a-Love by Al Sherman.

The tenor voice of Stuart Matthew Price was employed to gorgeous effect in so many numbers but it was great to see a more relaxed fun side in You're Sixteen (the brothers number one hit in 1960 & again in 1973) and particularly in his jungle of chimp impersonations in I Wanna Be Like You!

As the only member of cast that I hadn't previously come across I really enjoyed the wonderful characterisations of Greg Castiglioni in such classics as The Ugly Bug Ball, the aforementioned I Wanna Be Like You and especially in the tricksy A Veritable Smorgasbord (try singing that!) from Charlotte's Web.

Robert J Sherman was an insightful and passionate narrator and although occasionally he bumbled along it actually added to the charm of the production. It was lovely to see him at the piano, in particular, for River Song that his father wrote for his sons, particularly as this was also the launch of Moose: Chapters from my Life, the autobiography of his father.

The whole evening was brilliantly supported by Colin Billing as Musical Director, Arranger and Pianist playing with both passion and sensitivity bringing to life "the soundtrack of our childhoods".

A full house showed it's appreciation by singing and clapping along to the rousing ending. All in all a lovely evening, celebrating the lives of two immensely talented brothers whose legacy is assured.

4 stars ✭✭✭✭