Interview - Sophie-Louise Dann (A Spoonful of Sherman)

‘Music is such a great language. It doesn't age. It spans the test of time.’
 
Actor Sophie-Louise Dann, who is currently touring the UK with the joyous A Spoonful of Sherman, a glimmering music revue which celebrates not only the works of the eminent Sherman Brothers, whose musical contributions to Disney movies in the 60s and 70s is iconic to this day, but the entire family’s musical legacy, which spans multiple generations!
 

Sophie-Louise Dann
Photo credit - Matt Martin

‘We delve into their father's past’ Sophie-Louise tells me, ‘Al Sherman was such a gifted songwriter and wrote for the greats, like Maurice Chevalier, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra. In fact, my dear father, who's in his 80s, when he saw the list of songs, said, “Oh, yes. I used to sing those at the Youth Club”. Many people today may be unfamiliar with the once famed songs of Tin Pan Alley era songwriter Al Sherman, but modern musical theatre aficionados may very well recognised one or two of the musicals written by Robbie J. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman’s son, whose musicals Lovebirds and Bumblescratch have enjoyed success in the UK and who was also instrumental in A Spoonful of Sherman’s inception. It certainly sounds like there’s something for everyone in this musical revue. As Sophie-Louise describes it, ‘It really is a cavalcade of music, and I guarantee anyone who comes, the songs they know and love, they will know and love. The songs they don't know will soon become firm favourites.’

For many though, the big draw of this show will unquestionably be the music of the Sherman Brothers. With the title itself alluding to childhood classic Mary Poppins, many will be buying tickets in order to reclaim their childhood for a couple of hours. I am curious about how much of a part the music of the Sherman Brothers played in the childhood of Sophie-Louise Dann. ‘I think our strapline really is 'the songbook of your childhood”’ she declares. ‘You can list the films that we grew up watching: Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats… the list is endless.’ And does she have a particular favourite? ‘I'm very partial to anything from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ she tells me. Who isn’t? Certainly, it seems, the audiences are! ‘We allow the audience to enjoy what they're seeing, and we encourage them to sing along at certain points.’ She explains. ‘Why wouldn't you? You all want to sing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and then if we inspire, or we touch any new audience member, we've done our job.’
 
Sophie-Louise is also keen to talk about the less recognisable songs in the show, such as Tell Him Anything from the Sherman Brothers’ reworking of Cinderella, entitled The Slipper and The Rose. ‘It's a lesser known film, and there are some beautiful songs in it. The stars of the film were Richard Chamberlain and Gemma Craven, and it is so beautiful. It really needs to be back on people conscience, and hopefully this might give it a little airing.’

With so many brilliant songs, both old and new, featuring in the show, I am curious as to whether there are any classics which, in Sophie-Louise Dann’s opinion, slipped through the net? ‘Yeah, of course I might think "Oh, why isn't Bobbing Along from Bedknobs and Broomsticks in there?" but there are only so many we can sing, and I think over the evening we cover at least 60 songs.’ I'm shocked. 60 songs? How on earth do they fit them all in? ‘There's the great device of the medley’ she explains with a chuckle, ‘so you've got a little pick 'n' mix of some of your favourites’.


The cast of A Spoonful of Sherman
Photo credit - Matt Martin
It seems that Sophie-Louise Dann’s passion for the music of the Sherman family is absolutely genuine, and I’m curious to know if this passion played a part in her joining the cast in the first place. ‘I've been in town with three new musicals, Made in Dagenham, Bend it Like Beckham, and latterly, The Girls, and I actually missed having a connection with an audience, and being a little bit more up close and personal. When I knew that this was being expanded from a cabaret into an actual theatrical show, I thought "That's what I've been waiting for”’.

It’s unsurprising that a show like A Spoonful of Sherman would attract such a verifiably versatile performer. The show's company of 5 certainly gets to show off their vocal talents, with perfectly harmonised group numbers, and a range of solos and duets for them to get stuck into, all whilst telling the Sherman family story. ‘We're small but perfectly formed’ Sophie-Louise explains, before lovingly namechecking her co-stars. ‘We have lovely Glenn Facey, Jenna Innes, who is a real talent to watch, and Ben Stock on the piano and singing, and it seems that lately I have to work with ex-boy band members (she’s referring, presumably to her time working with Gary Barlow on the 2017's The Girls) because Mark Read, formerly of A1 in the 90s, is a real talent, and it's so lovely to see him enjoying himself at piano and delivering these lovely songs.’

It must be lovely, I suggest, to be able to perform in such an enjoyable show, and know that the audience is having just as great a time. ‘What is lovely,’ Sophie-Louise Dann asserts, ‘is when you see families out there… dads mouthing the words, and grannies humming along, and the little ones just loving it. It's a rollercoaster, this show. Once you're on, you're on.’