A Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Salute

PlayBlog   A Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Salute
 
The songwriting Brothers Sherman—Robert B., 84, and Richard M., 81, currently represented on Broadway with Mary Poppins and on screen with “Iron Man 2” — received the prestigious Career Achievement Award at The Theatre Museum’s 2010 Awards Gala, which was held May 17 at The Players Club — but not before their songbook had been thoroughly explored and presented as merry Exhibits A to Z.


This evening of Sherman Bros. tunes was hosted by John Bolton and directed by Tony Walton, whom the brothers first met as the husband of their Oscar-winning Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews. Because Walton was British and attuned to the ways of “Winnie the Pooh,” he was able to open that door for them and create a new film franchise. Now, he’s the director-designer in charge of getting their Busker Alley to Broadway with Jim Dale. An earlier production stopped in its tracks on the road years ago when Tommy Tune broke his ankle, and the project was subsequently abandoned.

Robert B., who lives in London, sent a letter of thanks, but brother Richard laid seige to the piano and let fly with the ditties and anecdotes. One surprising fact: of all the songs that were introduced in Disney films — including a couple of Oscar-winning ones like The Shermans' “Chim Chim Cher-ee” — Walt’s favorite was “Feed the Birds” which was played over Jane Darwell cameo as The Bird Woman in “Mary Poppins.”

Darwell, the Oscar-winning Ma Joad of “The Grapes of Wrath,” never made another film. “She had been living at the actors’ rest home and been all but forgotten,” the composer recalled. “They sent a limo for her and treated her like a queen. The whole cast — Julie, Dick [Van Dyke], Glynis [Johns] — came out and paid homage to her and made a beautiful thing out of it. Jane Darwell was a wonderful, sweet lady.”

A couple of Eliza Doolittles who had Dick Van Dyke for a co-star when they crossed paths with the Sherman brothers wired their best wishes. Noah Racey read the letter from Andrews, after first presenting huge blow-ups of him and her doing dueling Stan Laurel imitations. Bolton read the letter send by Sally Ann Howes, who thanked the bros for giving her a lovely role in the “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” film. “I must have been the oldest virgin ever in a musical film,” Howes mused. “My favorite memory of that film was singing the song that is titled after my character’s name. Today I still enjoy people coming up to me and calling me Truly Scrumptious, and, as I approach my 80th birthday, who could ask for anything more?”

Re: his “Iron Man 2” work, Sherman said, “I wrote a song called ‘Make Way for Tomorrow Today.’ They wanted something retro that sounded like it was written in the '70s so I tailored it to that style for a fictional World's Fair kind of a thing.”

— Harry Haun

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