Sherman Brothers Hopeful About a Future for Busker Alley

News   Sherman Brothers Hopeful About a Future for Busker Alley When producers who were shepherding the musical Busker Alley toward a commercial future announced on Aug. 25 that they were abandoning the project, in part, because of the "health issues" of one of the writers, it was a surprise to collaborator Robert B. Sherman, the Academy Award-winning songwriter who penned the score with his brother, Richard.

Producer Margot Astrachan and her producing partners cited "the loss of one member of the writing team and the health issues of another" as reasons for dropping the romantic musical comedy based on the film "St. Martin's Lane."

Librettist AJ Carothers died in April 2007, more than two years before the producers finally pulled out of the project. Robert Sherman, 83, told Playbill.com in an exclusive Aug. 31 statement, "The reports of my ill-health have been greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase Mark Twain."

He said that potential producers making public statements about his health could be "damaging to Richard's and my various ongoing projects. I'm not sure why the producers said it. It is true that during a critical moment in our negotiations I suffered a bad flare-up of gout, but it wasn't the Plague. That was three weeks ago. I'm feeling great now. Richard is healthy too, to the best of my knowledge."

He continued, "The negotiations just broke down. We simply couldn't see eye to eye with the producers on a number of key issues. These things happen. …Don't write off Busker Alley just yet. This show has had more lives than a Cheshire cat."

Plus, Robert Sherman added, "Richard and I are still working, both together and on separate projects. Richard is the most talented composer I know and I'm very proud of the work we do together. I'd write with him even if we weren't brothers." Richard M. Sherman lives in Beverly Hills, CA, and Robert B. Sherman lives in London.

The Sherman Brothers, according to Robert, are currently at work on two other projects: "Inkas the Ramferinkas," a children's animated film musical (Redstring Entertainment Inc.) and a stage musical called Merry-Go-Round (JNS Entertainment).

A stage adaptation of the Shermans' Academy Award-nominated film, "The Slipper and the Rose," is also currently in the works. Their Broadway musical Over Here! continues to be a licensable property; a Canadian revival is in the works.

The Sherman Brothers are currently represented on Broadway (and in a North American tour) with the musical Mary Poppins, based on the hit Disney film.

In 2008, the Sherman Brothers received the National Medal of Arts at The White House.

"The Boys," a documentary about the writers, was released in May 2009.

Robert Sherman's autobiography, "Moose," is expected at the end of 2009.

The idea for Busker Alley began in the 1960s, around the time when the Sherman Brothers were working with screenwriter Carothers on the Disney film musical, "The Happiest Millionaire." A version of Busker Alley was scheduled to arrive on Broadway in 1995 before star Tommy Tune broke his foot.

A 2006 concert revival of Busker Alley starring Jim Dale and Glenn Close was staged in Manhattan as a benefit for the York Theatre Company. Tony Walton directed. It was this creative team that producers wanted to take to Broadway. In the Aug. 25 statement, the producers stated, "We will be returning all of the money to our investors and release all of our sponsors from their obligations. We have been very fortunate to be associated with such an amazing team including director/designer, Tony Walton, lighting designer Richard Pilbrow and performers including Jim Dale, Glenn Close, John Bolton, Jessica Grove, Elizabeth Inghram, George S. Irving, Gavin Lee, Noah Racy and Ann Rogers who have been very supportive of our efforts in preparing this show for Broadway. We wish everyone the very best for the future."

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The show is based on the 1938 British film "St. Martin's Lane." Busker Alley, according to earlier press notes, concerns "a devil-may-care busker [one who entertains in public on London's famous streets], Charlie, no longer 'as young as he was,' [who] takes a gutsy, young sneak thief under his wing. He discovers her gift for music and performing and, with his tutelage, her talent blossoms along with his growing infatuation for her. Although Libby becomes part of the busker family, she wants more out of life. Her natural charm and drive feeds her need for 'being on the inside.' When she attracts the attention of a major West End producer, she leaves Charlie to follow her dream. She soon becomes a major stage star, and after she unsuccessfully tries to introduce Charlie to her new world, Charlie comes to the realization that he and Libby belongs in different worlds."

Tommy Tune starred in a pre-Broadway tour of Busker Alley in 1995. Six weeks prior to the musical's Broadway debut, Tune broke his foot during a performance in Tampa, and the show never reached New York.

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The story of the siblings who wrote some of Hollywood's most memorable songs is told in "The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story," the new feature film documentary release May 22, 2009, by Disney, the studio that was Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman's artistic home for many years.

The picture got a limited release May 22 in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Palm Desert, CA. Known for their melodic upbeat songs ("Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang," "Let's Go Fly a Kite"), the brothers were personally estranged over many years, the new film reveals. Their sons are the filmmakers.

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Their songbook includes "Chim Chim Cher-ee," "A Spoonful of Sugar," "Feed the Birds" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." They also penned the scores (always sharing "music and lyrics" credit together) to "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," "The Jungle Book," "The Happiest Millionaire" and more.

According to film's production notes, "The Boys" is "an intimate journey through the lives of Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, the astoundingly prolific, Academy Award-winning songwriting team that defined family musical entertainment for five decades. The feature-length documentary, conceived, produced and directed by two of the songwriters' sons, takes audiences behind the scenes of the Hollywood magic factory and offers a rare glimpse of a unique creative process at work. It also explores a deep and longstanding rift that has kept the brothers personally estranged throughout much of their unparalleled professional partnership. …Brothers Bob Sherman and Dick Sherman celebrated family values and happy endings for generations of moviegoers. Outside the public eye, however, the boys' personal relationship with each other was less than harmonious."

The filmmakers "explore the brothers' peripatetic childhoods, marriages, early careers and close personal and professional relationship with pioneering filmmaker and studio chief Walt Disney to create a unique portrait of these two extremely gifted but very different artists."

"The Boys" is produced and directed by Gregory V. Sherman and Jeffrey C. Sherman — cousins, and the sons of the songwriters.

"The Boys" includes all-new interviews with Julie Andrews, Roy E. Disney, Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., John Landis, Angela Lansbury, John Lasseter, Kenny Loggins, Alan Menken, Hayley Mills, Randy Newman, Robert Osborne, Debbie Reynolds, Stephen Schwartz, Ben Stiller, Dick Van Dyke and John Williams, as well as a rare archival interview with Annette Funicello.

The brothers' collaboration encompasses 50 motion pictures and resulted in a catalog of more than a thousand songs for television, records, theme parks and stage. (The Sherman songbook includes "It's a Small World After All" from the popular Disneyland attraction.)

They also penned songs for the films "The Aristocats," "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh," "The Parent Trap," "Charlotte’s Web," "Tom Sawyer" and "Snoopy Come Home." They also wrote the hit song "You're Sixteen," which twice hit Billboard's Top 10; first in 1960 with Johnny Burnette, then in 1974 with Ringo Starr, when it went all the way to No. 1.

Among their honors are two Academy Awards (plus seven additional Oscar nominations), the BMI Lifetime Achievement Award, a Grammy and five Golden Globe nominations. They are members of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

"The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story" uses original interviews, archival footage and personal photographs to create full portrait of the songwriters' lives. "There have been a lot of documentaries about creative people," said Gregg. "In this case, we get to peek into the creative process. We have the footage of them working together."

Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman
Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman
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