A Spoonful of Sherman

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The version of A Spoonful of Sherman currently appearing at Live at Brasserie Zedel is a pared down production of the 2-act show with 4 performers staged at the then St James Theatre in 2014.

Celebrating a century of songwriting from three generations of the extraordinary Sherman family, brothers Robert B and Richard M, their father Al and now Robert’s son Robert J  Sherman (Robbie), the show is a delightful history and showcase featuring just a snippet of their extensive body of work.

Setting the works of the famous brothers in historical context, the audience is treated to some of the early work of Al Sherman during his Tin Pan Alley days, and some written around the time of World War 2, including the sentimental though beautiful There’s A Harbour Of Dreamboats.

We learn that Al found it difficult to make a living as a songwriter, despite having written for Broadway shows, and that he went home from the hospital where his first son Robert was born, leaving wife and infant behind, because he did not have enough money to pay the hospital bill. He opened his post to discover a royalty cheque for just the right amount from a song called Save Your Sorrow.

We also learn that Robert, having joined the army at the tender age of 17 in 1943, only 2 years later was to lead a squadron of just 8 men into the infamous Dachau concentration camp hours after the Nazis had fled.

The War meant that, in spite of their age difference, the brothers attended university at the same time. Robert studied literature and Richard music.

Their careers going nowhere separately, their father laid down the gauntlet to them to write a popular hit song. This gave rise to numbers still played on the airwaves today, including Let’s Get Together and You’re Sixteen, and their legendary partnership was born.

Of course, the show includes the favourites forming the soundtrack of all our childhoods ranging from Mary Poppins, Jungle Book, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and countless other films from the Disney cannon and beyond, and the audience is also treated to some powerful material from Robbie’s shows Bumblescratch and Love Birds.

One of my personal favourites is Robbie himself singing a song his father wrote for him, River Song from Tom Sawyer.

This beautifully staged (Stewart Nicholls) production featuring the ebullient Daniel Boys, the crystal clear dewdrop voice of Helena Blackman, excellent piano skills and occasional comic showstealers from Christopher Hamiltonalongside the endearing personality of Robbie providing narration is to tour the UK soon, once again as a full-length show.

By the way, Robert also loved to make kites – go and fly one for them by catching this show.

Fiona-Jane Weston

About Fiona Jane Weston

I am Fiona-Jane Weston and as well as being a performer myself (see website), I write reviews of and features on shows, mainly on the London cabaret and theatre scene. I have worked in theatre for many years, but decided to embark on a new direction in cabaret in 2009, when I produced 20th Century Woman: The Compact Cabaret. Not wanting to neglect my love of spoken word, particularly drama and verse, I made the conscious decision to include these elements in the programme, as well as wonderful songs, to tell the story of women's changing status and preoccupations throughout the 20th Century and up to now. I was invited to audition for the renowned Cabaret Conference at Yale, run by the late legendary Erv Raible, and that was thrilled to be one of only 26 accepted that year, where I was taught by the masters of the genre. Amanda McBroom (composer of the Bette Middler hit "The Rose" and the poignant "Errol Flynn"), Laurel Massé, original member of Manhattan Transfer, Sally Mayes, Tony Award nominees Sharon McNight and Tovah Feldshuh, and New York cabaret veteran Julie Wilson were all on the faculty. We were also treated to the musical direction of Alex Rybeck, Hubert Tex Arnold and the now late Paul Trueblood. With the benefit of their insightful teaching and great encouragement, I took my show to The Duplex in New York, where I was delighted with the response. Since then, I have produced Loving London: The Capital Cabaret, using the same format of songs, poetry and drama, in various London venues, including Leicester Square Theatre and The Crazy Coqs. 2014, the centenary of World War 1, saw the launch of Wartime Women: the Khaki Cabaret to a sellout house at St. James Theatre, London, garnering great notices, including from The Times and Musical Theatre Review. I have since been touring the show to Belgium and throughout the UK. I hope these reviews and interviews entertain and educate at the same time, and if please do leave comments in the box. It's great to engage in a conversation about the Arts. Fiona-Jane Weston
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