CD REVIEW: Love Birds – Original Edinburgh Cast Recording

A rare and unusual thing – an original Edinburgh cast recording.

Following in his family’s illustrious songwriting footsteps (father and uncle The Sherman Brothers, were composers of the music for Mary PoppinsThe Jungle Book and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and grandfather Al – a Tin Pan Alley alumni, Love Birds is Robert J. Sherman’s new musical premiering at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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It’s the Roaring 20s – well the golden era of Vaudeville just before the twenties roared. Armitage Shanks’ avian revue is in turmoil as his star turn ‘the feathered Caruso’ Baalthazar Macaw has mysteriously gone missing. His remaining acts: a trio of singing macaw sisters and a quartet of performing penguins press on, but there’s revolt in the ranks as Shanks refuses to move with the times and embrace the dawn of a newer, racier era.

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Despite its setting and its 20’s-evocative feel, there are some interesting and fresh-sounding tunes here: ‘Mary Poppins’ is arguably the best of the bunch and has the penguins lament their abandonment at the hands of the most famous nanny in the world, it’s a barber-shop, doo woop number that could easily sit beside Sherman’s illustrious forebears classic output. Every style of the era is represented, there are Charleston tunes, Vaudeville numbers, Ragtime, torch songs, soft-shoe shuffles and ditties that wouldn’t sound out of place in 42nd StreetBugsy Malone or a Busby Berkeley extravaganza. That the sound is produced with only a three piece band (keys/bass/drums) and a fine sounding (if small) cast of nine is laudible.

It’s perky and it’s peppy and full of brio, but it could do with a little more light and shade to contrast the unremitting joy of the rest of the recording. One can’t help feeling that this is a springboard to something bigger. It’s clear a lot of time and effort has gone into its creation and the unusual production of an Edinburgh Fringe cast recording certainly signals intent for a longer life for Love Birds: it wouldn’t be surprising to hear in the future that this is being expanded into a full-blown two and a half hour production. Meanwhile enjoy a charming blast from a bygone era.

Love Birds is available from SimG Productions