Musicality of Strouse
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Ron Raines Liz Robertson
Sally Ann Triplet Karen Ziemba
A New Yorker by birth, Charles Strouse learnt the piano at school and, after graduating from university, studied music with the great American composer Aaron Copeland. In 1950 he met Lee Adams, a budding lyricist and together they started writing special material for cabaret acts, television and revue. When they met book writer Michael Stewart the idea for their first musical was born. It was a satirical look at pop music based on Elvis Presley’s conscription to the army called Bye Bye Birdie and the year 1960. It was an impressive hit and won Strouse and Adams Tony Awards. They continued to collaborate but Strouse has also worked with other lyricists and has composed many film scores including Bonnie and Clyde.
Bye Bye Birdie ran for over 600 performances on Broadway, had a successful run in London and was filmed in 1963. From the show we hear Broadway’s Susan Egan confess ‘How lovely to be a woman’. Their second show was All American, a tale of American football that was not a great success but it did introduce the lovely ‘Once upon a time’ sung here by Judy Kaye and David Green.
Golden Boy was specifically written for the talented Sammy Davis jr. and, not surprisingly was a big hit on Broadway and in London where it played at the prestigious London Palladium. We have chosen a new song, specially written for the 2003 London revival at the Greenwich Theatre, ‘Winners’ to represent this show and Alana Maria, who introduced the song in that production, to sing it. For their next show Strouse and Adams took the comic book story of Superman as their inspiration and It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane … It’s Superman was born. It introduced to the stage ‘The strongest man in the world’, a fitting number for matinee idol Matt Bogart.
In 1972 Strouse and Adams came to London to premiere the very British tale of the love life of Queeen Victoria called I and Albert starring Polly James and Sven-Bertil Taube. The show was only a moderate success but the score was preserved on disc and so we are able to hear the two stars sing ‘This gentle land / this noble land’.
Back on Broadway Strouse and Adams scored their biggest hit with Annie. Another tale that originated as a comic book cartoon story, this caught the public’s imagination around the world and went on to be filmed. There have been two attempts to find similar success with a sequel to the show but neither succeeded. From Annie (the movie) we hear Ruthie Henshall, Ron Raines and the entire company deciding ‘Let’s go to the movies’.
Charles Strouse wrote both the lyrics and music for Nightingale based on Hans Andersen’s The Emperor’s Nightingale. In London the star of the show, the nightingale of the title, was Sarah Brightman who knows only too well that ‘A singer must be free’. Another English star, Liz Robertson, headed the Broadway cast of Dance a Little Closer, a show based on the film Idiot’s Delight for which her husband, Alan Jay Lerner, wrote the lyrics and the book. We are delighted to have Liz Robertson singing ‘Dance a little closer’.
Charles Strouse teamed up with Stephen Schwartz for Rags in 1986. The story of how American immigrants were used as cheap labour in the clothes industry without union protection was a harrowing tale, but one told with great skill. One of London’s brightest new stars, Sally Ann Triplett, repeats the song she introduced to London when Rags premiered, ‘Blame it on the summer night’.
The ‘Thin Man’ film series of the forties was the inspiration for Nick and Nora. Charles Strouse collaborated with Richard Maltby jr. for this light hearted detective musical which could also boast a book by one of the most successful of Broadway book writers, Arthur Lawrence. Unfortunately it flopped but thankfully the score was recorded and so we can hear ‘Is there anything better than dancing?’ sung by the original stars Barry Bostwick and Joanna Gleason.
The movie Marty was a surprise choice for musicalisation but Charles Strouse was not deterred and is soon to premiere on Broadway. We can preview it by hearing the song ‘My star’ as sung by Broadway and TV star Ron Raines.
Another film to stage show is The Night They Raided Minsky’s. Strouse and Adams had written the original film score and for the show new numbers were written with lyricist Susan Birkenhead. Our choice from this show is one of the new songs, ‘Home’, sung by Karen Ziemba with Christiane Noll.
And so we have taken a tour through the musical brilliance of one of Broadway’s major talents who, luckily for us, continues to write for the theatre.
Rexton S Bunnett
- Once Upon A Time (from All American)
Judy Kaye and David Green, Lee Adams
- How Lovely To Be A Woma (from Bye Bye Birdie)
Susan Egan, Lee Adams
- My Star (from Marty)
Ron Raines, Lee Adams
- Blame It On The Summer Night (from Rags)
Sally Ann Triplett, Stephen Schwartz
- Home (from The Night They Raided The Minsky's)
Karen Ziemba with Christiane Noll, Susan Birkenhead
- Is There Anything Better Than Dancing (from Nick And Nora)
Joanna Gleason and Barry Bostwick, Barry Bostwick, Richard Maltby, Jr.
- The Strongest Man In The World (from It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman)
Matt Bogart, Lee Adams
- Dance A Little Closer (from Dance A Little Closer)
Liz Robertson, Alan Jay Lerner
- Winners (from Golden Boy)
Alana Maria, Lee Adams
- This Gentle Land / This Noble Land (from I And Albert)
Sven Bertil Taube and Polly James, Polly James, Company, Lee Adams
- A Singer Must Be Free (from Nightingale)
- Let's Go To The Movies (from Annie)
Ruthie Henshall and Ron Raines, Ron Raines, Company, Martin Charnin