Review: A Spoonful of Sugar, St James Theatre


“Everyone was glad
What a time they had
They were so happy they came”

Nostalgia can be a lovely thing to bathe in and when it comes to the music of the Sherman Brothers, there’s an ocean of it. Robert and Richard Sherman can lay claim to being one of the most successful songwriting partnerships ever, taking Hollywood by storm with such iconic soundtracks as Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to name just a few, in a career that has stretched over 60 years, even 90 if one includes their father Al who was a noted songwriter in his own right.

To really make it a family affair, A Spoonful of Sherman is hosted by Robert’s son Robbie who acts as compère throughout, drawing the narrative line from the beginning of the twentieth century right up to the present day as of course, he is a composer himself as well. Sadly, Sherman Junior is probably the weakest link of the evening, the unique insight that he could have brought to bear is largely conspicuous by its absence and he feels ill-suited to the task, one can tell this is not his natural oeuvre.

Fortunately, the company of four who perform the songs – Emma Williams, Charlotte Wakefield, Stuart Matthew Price and Greg Castiglioni – are eminently at home here in the intimate cabaret surroundings of the St James Studio. Musical director, arranger and pianist on the night Colin Billing completes the set beautifully and it is clear the joy that they all get in working their way through a stunning catalogue of songs. 

The song selection has been cannily done – for every hugely famous number (Castiglioni’s ‘I Wanna Be Like You, Wakefield’s wonderful ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’), there’s a lesser-known gem to follow (Castiglioni getting the laughs again with ‘The Ugly Bug Ball’, Wakefield and Williams’ gorgeous songs from The Slipper and the Rose). Personal highlights included Williams’ For Now For Always and Price’s Hushabye Mountain but there’s so much to love here, the whole thing is pretty irresistible. 

Running time: 2 hours (with interval)
Booking until 22nd April

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