Pros: A great collection of childhood tunes performed by a wonderful company of engaging singers with a sprinkle of Hollywood history for good measure.
Cons: Dislike Disney? Then stay well away and don’t spoil the fun for everyone else.
The new St James Theatre near Victoria station has a large auditorium (seating 312) and a smaller studio space (seating 120). The latter is intimate, on two levels and has its own bar. Things seemed a little disorganised on the evening I visited but then it was the only performance so some leeway must be given. Customers waiting for bar staff to arrive on the scene was less forgivable.
This one-night-only evening of cabaret was billed as ‘A Celebration of the Life, Times and Songs of Robert B. Sherman’ and was presented by his son, Robert J. Sherman, himself a successful song writer. The show was a tribute by this proud and loving son to his grandfather, Tin Pan Alley songwriter Al Sherman, and to his father and uncle’s song-writing team, the Sherman brothers. The brothers enjoyed a successful and illustrious collaboration with Walt Disney, amongst others, and created the musical scores for Mary Poppins, The Aristocats, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Jungle Book and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, to name a few. They won two Academy Awards for Mary Poppins and went on to earn nine Academy Award nominations, two Grammy Awards, four Grammy Award nominations and twenty three gold and platinum albums.
Mr Sherman led us through his rich family history, interspersed with musical interludes performed by four vocalists who brought the stories and songs vividly to life. Emma Williams and Stuart Matthew Price generally held court with the gentler ballads (‘Feed the Birds’, ‘Hushabye Mountain’) whilst Charlotte Wakefield and Greg Castiglioni were wonderful with the livelier tunes (‘A Spoonful of Sugar’, ‘Chim-Chim-Cher-ee’, ‘The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers’). With just a piano for backing the company took the audience on a whirlwind tour of childhood memories. Everyone seemed happy to go along for the ride with toes tapping and fingers clicking as we all romped through ‘I Wanna Be Like You’, ‘Me ‘Ol Bamboo’ and ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’.
It was a nostalgic evening and although I think it would be fair to say that Mr Sherman was not entirely comfortable on stage, his pride and love were clear to see as he recounted memories of his family. He also included some of his recent works, which obviously don’t have the patina of time (yet!), but they continue the Sherman tradition and serve to bring us up to date.
The evening was a real treat for those able to summon their inner child and indulge themselves with melodies that are so familiar to us all. As you’d expect from anything with Disney links, life becomes unashamedly candy-sweet and rosy-cheeked. One gentlemen leaving ahead of me could be heard gently singing ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite’ as he made his way home. Proof that the magic still works.
Songwriters: Al Sherman, Robert and Richard Sherman and Robert J. Sherman
Musical Director and Arranger: Colin Billing
Box Office: 0844 264 2140, firstname.lastname@example.org
Booking Link: http://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/
Booking Until: This was a one-off evening