June 12 marked the 90th birthday of Richard Sherman, one half of Disney’s dynamic duo of songwriters “The Sherman Brothers.”
Wait. You’ve never heard Sherman Brothers work? Well, “It’s A Small World.”
Almost everyone on the planet has hummed or tapped their foot to a tune penned by Richard Sherman and his late brother Robert, and recently the pair was feted at a fantastic show entitled, “The Sherman Brothers: A Hollywood Songbook.”
As the resident songwriters for several generations of Disney fans, their work stretches from two Oscars for Mary Poppins to Winnie the Pooh, The Jungle Book, The Parent Trap and, among other Disneyland attractions, the Tiki Room. They also wrote memorable scores for numerous films outside of Disney including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Tom Sawyer and Charlotte’s Web, among many others. There even was a fascinating 2009 documentary The Boys — some of which was shown in the clips expertly assembled for the presentation –that also has been in development as a narrative feature on and off over the years. Anyone who saw Disney’s story of the creation of Mary Poppins called Saving Mr. Banks also saw the Shermans significantly depicted in that 2013 film. Their list of honors include nine Oscar nominations and two wins, three Grammys, 24 platinum and gold albums, as well as the National Medal of Arts in 2008.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the appearance of 92-year-old Dick Van Dyke, who of course starred in both Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. “[The Shermans] never made fun of my Cockney accent, although several other people did. I can’t go to England anymore,” he laughed as he recalled the first time he heard the Shermans play the Poppins score in Disney’s office. “There was something about every song they wrote that went straight to your heart, and they were on the set every day helping us.” Joined by his barbershop quartet-style group, The Vantastix, Van Dyke proceeded to stop the show — and time — with a rousing Mary Poppins medley that also included a bit of fancy hoofing from the ageless star who still knows how to “step in time.”
Sherman himself took to the stage near the end, calling their signing by Disney “the opportunity of a lifetime” and going to the piano to sing and play a spirited “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” The entire cast joined him onstage for a final audience sing-along of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from the “Poppins” soundtrack.
I couldn’t find any footage from the event, but did see another treat to share – Walt Disney singing with the Sherman Brothers: