Theatre News

Mary Poppins songwriter Richard M Sherman has died aged 95

The songwriter’s death was announced last night

Richard M. Sherman accompanying original Broadway Mary Poppins portrayer Ashley Brown during the Disneyland 60th anniversary celebration(© or Allenblake21/Wikimedia Commons)
Richard M. Sherman accompanying original Broadway Mary Poppins portrayer Ashley Brown during the Disneyland 60th anniversary celebration
(© or Allenblake21/Wikimedia Commons)

Songwriter Richard M Sherman has died at the age of 95.

Working with his brother Robert, the Sherman Brothers became known for their now-iconic songs from the films Mary PoppinsThe Jungle BookChitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Aristocats, among many others.

Hired as in-house songwriters for Disney, they were employed by the company after Annette Funicello popularized their 1958 hit “Tall Paul.” The pair are also known for their beloved theme park attraction songs “It’s a Small World (After All),” “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow,” “Just One Spark,” and “The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room.”

The pair won an Oscar for “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins, and were nominated for tunes including “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “The Age of Not Believing” from Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and several others. They received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1976, and would ultimately write more than 200 songs for 27 films and 24 television productions.

As key members of the inner creative circle of Walt Disney, the Sherman Brothers were immortalised on screen by actors B J Novak (Robert) and Jason Schwartzman (Richard) in the 2013 film Saving Mr Banks, which explored the creation of the original Mary Poppins film. In 2023, Walt Disney Animation Studios revisited its 100-year history in the short film Once Upon a Studio. Richard returned to Walt’s office—the same place he and Robert would often perform “Feed the Birds” for Walt on Friday afternoons—to play piano in a key sequence.

Outside of the cinema and theme park worlds, the Sherman stage musicals include Victory Canteen, which led into the famed Andrews Sisters’ vehicle Over Here!Busker Alley, and theatrical adaptations of Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

Sherman is survived by spouse Elizabeth Gluck, children Lynda, Greogry, and Victoria, and six grandchildren. He was predeceased by his brother, who died in 2012.

In a statement, Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger said: “From films like Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book to attractions like ‘it’s a small world,’ the music of the Sherman Brothers has captured the hearts of generations of audiences. We are forever grateful for the mark Richard left on the world, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family.”

Cameron Mackintosh, who co-produces Mary Poppins on stage in the UK “The great Richard Sherman wrote instantly infectious, joyous songs to lift the heart. His iconic score for Mary Poppins, written with his brother Bob, will be enchanting audiences around the world forever more. He was also one of the great gentlemen of showbusiness, always charming, supportive and kind. We will all miss you, Dick – you are truly supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.