You may not know the names of Richard and Robert Sherman, but you already know their music. From writing classic scores including Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Winnie the Pooh, the Sherman Brothers have gained the reputation for writing “the songbook of your childhood.” They gained wide acclaim including two Oscars, two Grammys and many more nominations with their “singable, sellable and sincere” songs.
With delightful tunes and clever lyrics, the Sherman Brothers’ songs have been delighting audiences for decades. After a successful debut on London’s West End in 2014, A Spoonful of Sherman is currently making its U.S. debut in Downtown San Jose.
A Spoonful of Sherman is a musical tribute to the life and work of these brothers, created by their nephew/son, Robert J. Sherman. The show is more of a musical review than a traditional musical. It uses the music created by the Sherman Brothers, their father Al Sherman and the show’s creator, Robert J. Sherman, to take the audience through three generations of songwriters. Each song is performed with enthusiasm. The music is just as fun and exuberant as you remember it and is perfectly framed by the story of its creators. The true magic of the show comes directly from the songs themselves, putting them center stage is the smart—and really only—choice to make for this show.
The toe-tapping music you can already sing along to is delightfully engaging. Hearing about the men behind such classics as “Feed the Birds,” “Let’s Get Together,” and “It’s a Small World After All,” is great, but it’s even better to hear the stories while the songs are performed in front of you. The majority of the Sherman Brothers’ songs were written for families to enjoy. They are songs that bring everyone together by design. In a world that feels increasingly fragmented, it’s exciting to feel an audience come together, finding common ground in these songs we love as we all learn about the circumstances behind them.
It is also impressive how well the small, six-person cast is able to perform the wide variety of work. Each actor performs solos, duos and full-cast numbers from wildly different musical styles with very different tones throughout the show, often switching very quickly between them. Although a few songs early in the show miss their emotional marks, the actors seemed to settle into the songs by the end of the first act, giving each song the attention and intensity that it deserves. Their performances breathe life into the show. Together they take the audience on a happy adventure through a century of songs to warm even the hardest of hearts.
The show has a collection of technical problems, from missed and early light cues to costumes for the women that look like they were pulled straight out of a production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. Luckily, these issues do little to distract from the warm heart of the production. In the end, the biggest downside of the show is that there isn’t time to hear all of the Sherman Brothers’ hundreds of songs.
A Spoonful of Sherman is playing now through May 5, 2019 at 3Below Theaters & Lounge, 288 South 2ndStreet, San Jose. Performances are schedules for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 with Sunday Matinees at 2:00. Tickets range from $36-$54. The show is performed with one fifteen-minute intermission.
Photo courtesy of 3Below Theaters & Lounge