Keeping it in the family

    A Spoonful of Sherman, which celebrates the work of the clan who penned tunes for such stars as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and some of Broadway’s greatest musicals, including Mary Poppins, starts its run at Tonbridge’s EM Forster Theatre on February 15.  Here, writer Robert Sherman tells Eileen Leahy about his family’s noteworthy tale…

     

     

    Robert, please can you give us a brief synopsis of A Spoonful of Sherman…

    It’s a show about my family’s century-long songwriting journey, and includes the songs of
    my grandfather, father and uncle, and even a few by me! It’s about family and family values; and what it is to be on the voyage of the human experience. It’s a show loaded with heart and is very much ‘The Songbook of Your Childhood’.

    What makes it such a special performance?
    Ultimately, it comes down to the songs, I think. These are special songs that connect to a verydeep part of all our lives. Hopefully, the five performers in the show are able to connect to their own inner child. But I should add that it’s not a childish show. Children will love it, but so will their parents and grandparents as it plays on so many levels.

    How many are in the cast?
    There are five in our current cast. Sophie-Louise Dann, Mark Read, Glen Facey, Jenna Innes and Ben Stock, who is doubling as our Music Director as well. And they are all flat-out wonderful!

    How long have you been touring, and how do you find it?
    This is actually the show’s very first tour. We’re doing it as a part of centenary celebration
    of my family’s songwriting legacy. My grandfather started writing songs 100 years ago, and there have been Shermans writing popular songs ever since. Tonbridge is actually our very first venue!

    You did a slightly different version of the show in London, can you tell us about that?
    We did it three times between 2014 and 2017, and I was the narrator. But this time there’s more movement and choreography. At its heart it’s the same, though. I’m
    not in this version of the show, although I do give a presentation at each venue. It gives me a chance to do something I love doing, which is to connect with fans of my family’s music.

    How does this happen?
    After I have spoken, the audience has the chance to ask questions and tell me their
    own stories about how these songs impacted on their lives. They also get to see some really nifty bits of my family’s Hollywood and Broadway memorabilia up close. This includes my father’s Oscars, which he received for Best Song and Best Score in Mary Poppins, plus some Gold Records, a Grammy and other items of Hollywood and Broadway intrigue.

    How does this happen?
    After I have spoken, the audience has the chance to ask questions and tell me their
    own stories about how these songs impacted on their lives. They also get to see some really nifty bits of my family’s Hollywood and Broadway memorabilia up close. This includes my father’s Oscars, which he received for Best Song and Best Score in Mary Poppins, plus some Gold Records, a Grammy and other items of Hollywood and Broadway intrigue.

    What is the audience’s general reaction to the show?
    Folks love it as It transports them back to their childhood – it’s quite remarkable. When we’ve done the show in London, I would have people come up to me afterwards crying tears of joy. They were so moved by some of the numbers. They’re surprised by how much of the show they already know because they know the songs from their childhood, and it’s amazing how much iconic music has been written by my family over the last century.

    What is the secret behind a successful stage show?
    Funny you should bring that up! I was just chatting with famed Oscar-winning lyricist Don Black about this very subject two days ago. The truth is that no one really knows the secret to what makes a successful show. What works for one show can be a disastrous idea for another. I can only speak as a writer because that’s my expertise. If you write something that’s meaningful to you, then you at least have a chance to connect with your audience. Then, if the stars are aligned – that is to say you get the right producer, the right music director, the right performers, etc – then you have at least a smidgen of a chance at having a hit.

    A Spoonful of Sherman runs from Thursday February 15 to Saturday February 17 at the
    EM Forster Theatre. Tickets cost £16 (£14 concessions) and timings vary. For more details, visit www.boxoffice.tonbridge-school.co.uk