Was music always a part of your life?
Yes, I come from a long line of songwriters. My father and my uncle are The Sherman Brothers - they wrote for film musicals including Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book. My grandfather put the brothers together - he himself was a Tin Pan Alley songwriter who wrote for everyone from Billie Holiday and Bing Crosby to Frank Sinatra. And actually my great-grandfather was the court composer to Emperor Franz Josef, so Shermans, we go way back!
My earliest memory is of wanting to be a songwriter. My father would bring home records from films he was working on, and I remember dancing around to this music. He wasn't just writing songs, he was writing children's songs, so, as a child myself, it was music that I could readily identify with.
Was your father a big musical influence, or did you want to differentiate yourself?
My father was a very loving person and sensitive to what it was like to be the son of a prominent songwriter. He never pushed me - it was always something I wanted to do. I was impressed by his work, but I didn't strive to imitate it. There's no doubt though, considering the arc of life until now, that he was my great mentor. I also have fun referencing his work. For example, in Love Birds there are four penguins singing in a barbershop quartet - they were a very deliberate homage to the penguins in Mary Poppins.
Are plague rats a hard sell?
Several producers asked me to change the characters in Bumblescratch from rats to humans, or to hedgehogs - there's actually a theory that hedgehogs (not rats) were the cause of the Great Fire. And you should know, I'm not a fan of rats, but the whole point of the story is that redemption is available, even for the seemingly unredeemable character.
Do you think there's enough support for new musicals?
No, not enough. I can understand why investors and producers are attracted to shows based on books or movies we already know, but room should be made for original shows too. They're the future lifeblood of the theatre - that goes for producers, investors and also for audiences. Audiences are also timid to see an unknown show. It wasn't always this way - writers would regularly create original stage musicals and they'd often be hugely successful. Actually the musicals that are most ground-breaking and that have had the most lasting success are the ones, ironically, taking the most chances at their inception.
To read the full BroadwayWorld.com interview with Robbie, click here.