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Put on a Happy Face: A Broadway Memoir

Overview

Just about everyone who can hum knows and loves Charles Strouse’s music. He composed some of the most successful shows in Broadway history (Annie, Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, and Golden Boy); wrote the film score for Bonnie and Clyde as well as the unforgettable theme song for All in the Family; has been sampled by one of today’s biggest rap stars—Jay-Z, in the Grammy-winning Hard Knock Life; and his songs have been sung by musical greats from Frank Sinatra to Ray Charles to ...
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Overview

Just about everyone who can hum knows and loves Charles Strouse’s music. He composed some of the most successful shows in Broadway history (Annie, Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, and Golden Boy); wrote the film score for Bonnie and Clyde as well as the unforgettable theme song for All in the Family; has been sampled by one of today’s biggest rap stars—Jay-Z, in the Grammy-winning Hard Knock Life; and his songs have been sung by musical greats from Frank Sinatra to Ray Charles to Barbra Streisand.
Timed to coincide with public celebrations of his 80th birthday, Put on a Happy Face grants an insider’s glimpse of Broadway, Hollywood, and beyond. With sparkling wit, Strouse relates the behind-the-curtain stories of his remarkable achievements, and tells fascinating tales about the people he’s worked with along the way, including Butterfly McQueen, Gower Champion, Sammy Davis Jr., Lauren Bacall, Mel Brooks, Clifford Odets, Warren Beatty, Hal Prince and Carol Burnett.
Strouse is a musical-theater legend who is as entertaining on the page as his work is on the stage!
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Three-time Tony Award—winning composer Strouse is best known for the musical Annie and his All in the Family theme, "Those Were the Days." While "wary of the ghosts that appear," he summons up memories of a career that spans decades, beginning with his Manhattan boyhood, study at Rochester's Eastman School of Music, touring the South with Butterfly McQueen and early collaborations with lyricist Lee Adams. His 1950s pianist gigs ran the gamut from strip clubs to musical theater classes at the Actors Studio: "Typically, I would have accompanied Kevin McCarthy and Marilyn Monroe in a scene from Oklahoma!" After his 1960 smash hit Bye Bye Birdie, there were plenty of happy faces and more long runs. Although he covers his film scores and music for TV commercials, the book's best chapters center on the staging struggles of Annie and Applause, plus breaking racial barriers with Sammy Davis Jr. in Golden Boy. Many songs are cited, but the lack of lyrics is disappointing, Strouse instead regales with fascinating, sometimes surprising, anecdotes, such as Mike Nichols, clad in a new camel-hair coat, skidding about in his own vomit at an airport. Detailing desperate rewrites, insecurities of theater people, footlight failures and humiliations, as well as theatrical triumphs, Strouse's superb backstage memoir deserves a standing ovation. 16-page b&w insert. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Strouse, Tony and Emmy Award-winning composer of Bye Bye Birdie, Annie, and other iconic Broadway musicals, offers a fascinating tale for those interested in theater or music, studded with glimpses of a wide array of titanic figures such as Leonard Bernstein, Sammy Davis Jr., and Mike Nichols. However, this is equally a story of penniless artists struggling to put a show together for the sheer joy of it, and this excitement gives the narrative a great deal of vitality. Strouse emerges as a compelling and likable protagonist, and though he grapples with the depression and insecurity common to many artists, he is able to see (or at least frame) some of his darkest moments with a sense of comedy. Like the best of his musical creations, Strouse's memoir skillfully balances pathos and sunshine and results in an entertaining story of genuine warmth. Essential for all musical theater, theater, and popular music collections; recommended for all public libraries.
—Katherine Litwin

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402758898
  • Publisher: Union Square Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2008
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 8.22 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 1.24 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Strouse is the Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award-winning composer of, among other works, Bye Bye Birdie (1960, with long-time collaborator Lee Adams), All-American (1962, with Mel Brooks), Golden Boy (1962, starring Sammy Davis Jr.) Applause (1970, starring Lauren Bacall) and Annie (1977). He has won three Tonys® (and been nominated an additional four times), two Grammys® and one Emmy®. In addition, he is a three-time Drama Desk nominee; recipient of the Richard Rodgers, the Oscar Hammerstein and the Frederick Lowe Awards, and has been elected to both the Theater Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
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Table of Contents


Overture     1
A Lot of Living     3
A Healthy, Normal American Boy     8
The Hard-Knock Life     18
Those Were the Days     26
Nice to See Ya     40
Coming Attractions     55
We Love You, Conrad     71
Everything's Easy When You Know How     91
Fight Song     105
Before the Parade Passes By     124
There's Music in That Boy     134
You've Got Possibilities     167
Fasten Your Seat Belts     181
It Would Have Been Wonderful     200
I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here     208
Tomorrow     229
Dance a Little Closer     245
Cheer Up, Hamlet     260
As Long As You're Happy     270
Exit Music: Coming Attractions     287
Shows and Awards     297
Acknowledgments     313
Index     315
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2008

    A reviewer

    Charles Strouse is one of the last of a generation of great tune smiths. Broadway composers who could, as Richard Rodgers said, 'piss good melodies.' No matter what the show, Strouse could be counted upon to come up with great singable, hummable and even memorable tunes. He didn't always have hit shows, but when he did they were shows like Bye Bye Birde and Annie. This book tells a lot about the hits and also offers some wonderful anecdotes and insights into the various flops. Strouse isn't afraid to say what is one his mind and ruffle some feathers. The sections on Golden Boy and Sammy Davis Jr. and especially the Nick and Nora chapter that tells us more than we knew about Arthur Laurents are especially tasty. Unlike many memoirs, Charles personal life is handled very well and I was not bored for a second at the part I usually like to skip: the childhood. Charles ties it all in to his career and how the music was made and where it came from. One of the best memoirs to come down the pike in a while. Highly recommended to anyone interested in theatre, music or film.

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