Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Great Broadway Memories In 'Happy Face'

As many of you know, we love show biz memoirs. And what better time to talk about such books than during Tony Awards season on Broadway?

One of our favorite Broadway memoirs has been Put On A Happy Face, a delightful book by composer Charles Strouse.

Subtitled A Broadway Memoir this journey through five decades of Broadway recounts Strouse's upbringing and his education through the Eastman School of Music. studies under the great Aaron Copeland and adventures in Paris as a young man before taking us through some of the great Broadway musicals of all time.

Three-time Tony-award-winning songwriter (Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, Annie) Charles Strouse can remember attending shows at an early age with his parents and being awestruck with all the glamour. The composer of "Put on a Happy Face" (from Bye Bye Birdie), "A Lot of Living to Do," and "Once Upon a Time" has enjoyed success on both the stage and screen. He co-wrote the opening theme for Norman Lear's '70s TV sitcom All in the Family titled "Those Were the Days." 

Some of his collaborators included Lee AdamsAlan Jay LernerMartin Charnin, and Sammy Cahn.
Bye Bye Birdie, his first and probably most-known success, was responsible for winning him his first Tony Award. The London production of the show won the London Critics' Best Foreign Musical Award. Strouse also co-wrote the 1966 musical It's a Bird, a Plane, It's Superman and Golden Boy starring Sammy Davis Jr.In 1970, Strouse won another Tony for Applause starring Lauren Bacall

Two of the musicals were made into major motion pictures: Bye Bye Birdie, starringJanet LeighDick Van Dyke, and Ann-Margret (Columbia, 1963), and Annie (Columbia, 1982). The soundtrack to Annie went gold -- extremely rare for a show tunes album -- mainly off of the ballad "Tomorrow." The song has been covered by numerous artists including Johnny Mathis and Cissy Houston. The LP has the distinction of winning both a Tony and two Grammy awards. 

Bye Bye Birdie was also a 1995 ABC-TV movie starring Jason Alexander of Seinfeld. The song "Let's Settle Down" won a 1996 Primetime Emmy Award. Strouse contributed scores and or songs to the following movies: Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968), There Was a Crooked Man (1970), Just Tell Me What You Want (1980), Ishtar (1987), and All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). Other musicals Strouse has contributed to include Broadway Musical, Charlie and Algernon, All American written with Mel Brooks and Lee Adams, Mayor, Dance a Little Closer, Nick and Nora, Annie Warbucks, Rags, and Nightingale. By Strouse, a musical consisting of songs from Strouse's catalog, tours frequently, while Strouse himself is an active guest lecturer. Ed Hogan.

One of the first Broadway shows we ever saw was a Stouse/Adams vehicle, All American which starred the great Ray Bolger and debuted in Philadelphia at the old Erlanger Theater. We weren't certain it would be a huge hit on Braodway. It wasn't. But it had a respectable run.

And Strouse produced many other hits and he is said to be working on a new Broadway musical, The Night They Raided Minsky's.

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