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Music Review

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Love Birds
(Original Edinburgh Cast Recording)


Music: Robert J. Sherman
Lyrics: Robert J. Sherman
Performed by: Ruth Betteridge, Greg Castiglioni, John Guerrasio, George Knapper, Jonny Purchase, Joanna Sawyer, Anna Stolli, Rafe Watts and Ryan Willis
Label: SimG Records
Release Date: 17 August 2015

Like the proverbial No 92 bus, you don't get anything new from a composer for years, and then two come along almost together. You may remember me reviewing the excellent Spoonful of Sherman a month or so ago, which was the latest release from SimG Records, one of my favourite labels, and the premier supporter of new musical theatre talent. Advertised in the inlay art for that release was SimG's next release, the Edinburgh Festival cast recording of Love Birds. The link between the two is two fold. Whilst one of the original Sherman Brothers (Richard M) is still alive and writing songs from his Los Angeles home, this musical is in fact written by the son of the late Robert B Sherman, Robbie J Sherman... hope you are keeping up! And the other link is that this musical centres around the myriad of animals that featured in their masterpiece Mary Poppins.

Yes, the singing penguins live on. Indeed, as the promotional material states...

“The age of vaudeville. A quartet of penguins and a trio of parrots sing and dance, dazzling and delighting their audiences, night after night in this one of a kind, all avian revue. But when the show’s temperamental cracker-crazed macaw star mysteriously goes missing, it threatens to close down the show for good.”

The recording, as I said earlier, features the cast of the recent Edinburgh Festival cast - Ruth Betteridge, Greg Castiglioni, John Guerrasio, George Knapper, Jonny Purchase, Joanna Sawyer, Anna Stolli, Rafe Watts and Ryan Willis, and features Neil MacDonald, Marcus Pritchard and James Pritchard on piano, bass and drums. It also comes complete with a 16-page colour booklet, including production photographs, a synopsis, and cast and creative biographies. I say it every time I review a SimG release, but their packaging and information really is the best in the business.

I was keen to hear this recording, particularly as I was lucky enough to have dinner with Richard M Sherman earlier this year, and I wasn't such a fan of Robbie's material on the Spoonful of Sherman release. And whilst I still think there is very much some 'hanging on the coat tails' in evidence, I'm pleased to say that this is a pretty competent musical, certainly in terms of a cast recording. It's clear from the numbers that there is still a Sherman gene at work somewhere in there - the songs are all pretty much of a style, and part of their appeal is their simplicity. The Sherman Brothers were always at their best when they kept it sounding simple - whether it was or it wasn't - and it works pretty much the same for Love Birds too.

Of note, I’d like to mention 'Today Is Yesterday’s Tomorrow' (perhaps the only song that was memorable on first play), 'On Cloudy Days' which is a bonus track, and the title track which is perhaps the most successful and 'Shermanesque' of the whole score.

A great deal of thanks for this album working is due to the performers - all are excellent - and the skillful arranging of Richard Healy. The vocal arrangements on these numbers stands out as one of the best I've heard on a new cast recording. A bigger band on the recording would have been nice, and would have given a little variety in the sound and texture of some of the numbers.

I would encourage anyone with an interest in musical theatre to have a listen to this, as there is much to like. And as long as you set your expectations as Sherman with a small 'S', you will not be disappointed.


Ian Gude

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