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 Hamilton, alongside 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.