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A Spoonful of Sherman

It’s a slight paradox to put a pair of songwriters who didn’t write for the theatre at the centre of a theatrical entertainment, even if two of the biggest movie hits they scored – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins – subsequently migrated to the stage. But the joy of this charming revue that celebrates three generations of songwriters from the same family tree, across some 90 years, is that the framing context duly provides its own theatrical structure and momentum.

The show is a sort of Side by Side by Sherman. The well-known songs of Robert and Richard Sherman, or the Sherman Brothers as they were universally known, have been joined here by the work of their father Al an accomplished Tin Pan Alley writer in his day whose songs were recorded by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday to Sinatra and Duke Ellington and Robert’s son, also called Robert, who is on hand as narrator.

If that inevitably lends the show a cosy atmosphere of both celebration and an element of self-celebration in Robert J Sherman’s brief showcasings of his own songs from a new musical called Bumblescratch, there’s plenty to both surprise and delight here.

That’s particularly thanks to a vibrant, hand-picked cast that includes Emma Williams, the West End’s first Truly Scrumptious from the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 2002, who now brings a shimmering, mature and full-bodied soprano to everything she sings, including Chitty’s Lovely Lonely Man. One of the West End’s best male voices, Stuart Matthew Price, is similarly liltingly lovely on Hushabye Mountain, but also endearingly comic, as required, to play Winnie the Pooh. The quartet is completed by the excellent Greg Castiglioni and Charlotte Wakefield.

Mark Shenton