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Charles Strouse

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Charles Strouse
Strouse in 2013
Strouse in 2013
Background information
Born (1928-06-07) 7 June 1928 (age 96)
New York City, New York, U.S.
OriginNew York City, United States
Years active1959–present
Barbara Siman
(m. 1962; died 2023)

Charles Strouse (born June 7, 1928) is an American composer and lyricist best known for writing the music to such Broadway musicals as Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, and Annie.

Life and career


Strouse was born in New York City, to Jewish parents, Ethel (née Newman) and Ira Strouse, who worked in the tobacco business. A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, he studied under Arthur Berger, David Diamond, Aaron Copland and Nadia Boulanger.[1][2]

Strouse's first Broadway musical was Bye Bye Birdie, with lyrics by Lee Adams, which opened in 1960.[3] Adams became his long-time collaborator. For this show, Strouse won his first Tony Award in the category of best musical.[4]

Strouse's next show was All American (1962), with a book by Mel Brooks and lyrics by Adams; it was not a success, closing after 80 performances,[5] but it produced the standard “Once Upon a Time” (recorded by Perry Como, Eddie Fisher, Al Martino, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and Bobby Darin, among dozens of others).

Following this was Golden Boy (1964, also with Adams), starring Sammy Davis Jr., which ran for 568 performances. The musical It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman (1966, based on the popular comic strip) closed after 129 performances, but introduced the song "You've Got Possibilities" sung by Linda Lavin.[6][7] Its theme would also be adopted by Washington, D.C. television station WTOP (now WUSA) for news broadcasts.[8]

In 1970, Applause (starring Lauren Bacall, with book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and lyrics by Adams) won Strouse his second Tony Award, for Best Musical.[9] In 1977, Strouse adapted another comic strip for the stage, creating the hit Annie, which included the song "Tomorrow," which quickly became a "monstrous song hit," and garnered him his third Tony Award and two Grammy Awards.[10]

Other Strouse musicals include Charlie and Algernon (1979), Dance a Little Closer (1983, with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, which closed after one performance), Rags (1986; which closed after four performances and 18 previews), Nick & Nora (1993, which closed after 9 performances), and An American Tragedy (1995, with lyrics by David Shaber, performed at Muhlenberg College).

Strouse also wrote musical revues, many with Adams, and his songs were included in revues. The revues included Shoestring Revue (with Adams and Michael Stewart) (1955 – Off–Broadway),[11] Medium Rare (with Adams) (1960 - Chicago),[12] By Strouse (1978 – Off–Broadway at The Ballroom),[12][13] Upstairs At O'Neals (1982 – Nightclub Revue),[14] Can't Stop Dancin (1994 – Marymount Theatre), and A Lot Of Living! (1996 – conceived and directed by Barbara Siman at Rainbow and Stars).[15]

Strouse wrote the music and lyrics for the animated special Lyle, Lyle Crocodile which aired on HBO in 1987.[16] His film scores include Bonnie and Clyde (1967), There Was a Crooked Man... (1970, with Henry Fonda and Kirk Douglas), the Norman Lear production of The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968, with Adams) and the popular animated movie All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). He and Adams also wrote the theme song “Those Were the Days”[17] for the Norman Lear television show All in the Family. Strouse's songs have been heard on the radio throughout his career and have run the gamut from girl-band pop to hip hop. In 1958, his song “Born Too Late” was number seven on the Billboard charts, and in 1999 the quadruple platinum Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) by artist Jay-Z (which sampled "It's The Hard Knock Life" from Annie) was the winner of a Grammy for Best Rap Album of the year & the Billboard R&B Album of the Year.

Strouse's writing also extends into orchestral works, chamber music, piano concertos and opera. His Concerto America, composed in 2002 to commemorate 9/11 and the spirit of New York City, premiered at The Boston Pops in 2002,[18] and his opera Nightingale (1982), starring Sarah Brightman, had a successful run in London, followed by many subsequent productions. In 1977, Strouse founded the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop in New York, through which many young composers and lyricists have found a forum for their work.

A musical stage adaptation of the Paddy Chayefsky film Marty starring John C. Reilly premiered at Boston's Huntington Theatre in October 2002, with lyrics by Lee Adams and Strouse and the book by Rupert Holmes.[19] Real Men, for which Strouse wrote the music and lyrics, premiered in January 2005 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami, Florida,[20] and his musical Studio, premiered at Theatre Building Chicago in August 2006. The musical Minsky's, with music by Strouse, book by Bob Martin, and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead (loosely based on the movie The Night They Raided Minsky's) premiered in January 2009 at the Ahmanson Theater.[21]

Strouse won Emmy Awards for music in television adaptions of Bye Bye Birdie and Annie. He is also the recipient of the 1999 ASCAP Foundation Richard Rodgers Award[22] and the Oscar Hammerstein Award. He is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame (in 2001)[23] and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Strouse was married to director-choreographer Barbara Siman until her death on February 16, 2023.[24] They had 4 children: Benjamin, Nicholas, Victoria and William.[25]

Strouse received an Emperor Has No Clothes Award at the Freedom From Religion Foundation's 34th annual national convention on October 8, 2011.[26] The award is "reserved for public figures who make known their dissent from religion".[citation needed]




Film scores


Awards and nominations

  • 1961 Tony Award for Best Musical (Bye Bye Birdie, winner)
  • 1965 Tony Award for Best Musical (Golden Boy, nominee)
  • 1970 Tony Award for Best Musical (Applause, winner)
  • 1977 Tony Award for Best Original Score (Annie, winner)
  • 1977 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music (Annie, nominee)
  • 1981 Tony Award for Best Original Score (Charlie and Algernon, nominee)
  • 1986 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music (Mayor, nominee)
  • 1987 Tony Award for Best Original Score (Rags, nominee)[47]
  • 1987 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music (Rags, nominee)[47]
  • 1992 Tony Award for Best Original Score (Nick & Nora, nominee)[48]
  • 2012 Rochester (NY) Music Hall of Fame (Lifetime Body of Work)
  • 2013 Five Towns College named Charles Strouse School of Music


  1. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn. "A Life in the Theatre: Charles Strouse" Playbill, September 1, 2009
  2. ^ "Charles Strouse" masterworksbroadway.com, retrieved December 11, 2017
  3. ^ Bye Bye Birdie Playbill, retrieved December 10, 2017
  4. ^ Strouse, Charles (2008). Put On A Happy Face: A Broadway Memoir. New York: Union Square Press. p. 93. ISBN 978-1-4027-5889-8.
  5. ^ All America Playbill, retrieved December 10, 2017
  6. ^ "It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman – Original Broadway Cast Recording 1966". Masterworks Broadway. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  7. ^ Leydon, Joe. "'It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane … It’s Superman!'", Variety, June 28, 2010.
  8. ^ Paul Young (June 15, 2014). "16 Actors Who Have Portrayed Superman". ScreenRants. Retrieved April 26, 2023.
  9. ^ " 'Applause' Awards", ibdb.com; retrieved December 11, 2017.
  10. ^ Suskin, Steven (2010). Show Tunes: The Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers (4th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-19-531407-6.
  11. ^ Shoestring Revue allmusic.com, retrieved December 11, 2017
  12. ^ a b Dietz, Dan. Off Broadway Musicals, 1910–2007, McFarland, 2012; ISBN 0786457317, pp. 72, 406.
  13. ^ Wilson, John S. "Cabaret: Charles Strouse Songs at the Ballroom" The New York Times, February 3, 1978
  14. ^ Upstairs At O'Neals allmusic.com, retrieved December 11, 2017
  15. ^ Holden, Stephen. "Pop in Review", The New York Times, March 17, 1996.
  16. ^ Heffley, Lynn. "Television Reviews : 'Lyle Crocodile' on HBO", The Los Angeles Times, November 18, 1987.
  17. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066626/soundtrack?ref_=tt_ql_trv_7 [user-generated source]
  18. ^ Tommasini, Anthony. "High Notes; A Composer of Musicals Revives His 'Serious' Side" The New York Times, June 30, 2002
  19. ^ a b Hernandez, Ernio. "John C. Reilly Sings in New Musical, 'Marty', Starting Oct. 18 in Boston", Playbill.com, October 18, 2002.
  20. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "'Real Men', an Intimate New Musical By Charles Strouse, Opens Jan. 7 in Miami", Playbill.com, January 7, 2005.
  21. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "'Minsky's', Burlesque-Set Musical by Strouse, Birkenhead and Martin, Opens in L.A.", Playbill.com, February 6, 2009.
  22. ^ McBride, Murdoch. "ASCAP Honors Composers Charles Strouse and Andrew Lippa at Lincoln Center Dec. 9" Playbill, December 8, 1999
  23. ^ Van Gelder, Lawrence. "Footlights" The New York Times, December 25, 2001
  24. ^ Ingenthron, Blair. "Barbara Siman Strouse, Actress, Director, Choreographer, and Wife of Charles Strouse, Has Passed Away" Broadway World, February 18, 2023
  25. ^ Kaufman, Joanne. "A Theater Couple's Off Broadway Oasis", The New York Times, September 21, 2008.
  26. ^ "Convention Speakers". Archived from the original on 2011-10-14.
  27. ^ "Charles Strouse Broadway", Playbill.com; retrieved December 10, 2017
  28. ^ "Strouse Broadway Credits", ibdb.com; retrieved December 10, 2017
  29. ^ Suskin, Steven (2010). Show Tunes: The Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers, Oxford University Press
  30. ^ Barnes, Clive. "Theater: Of Adam and Eve and Songs", The new York Times, April 13, 1971.
  31. ^ " 'I and Albert' Overview", allmusic.com; retrieved December 11, 2017.
  32. ^ Suskin, Steven. "Show Tunes: The Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers", Oxford University Press (2010).
  33. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn."Troubled 'Annie 2' Closing Out of Town; Revisions Planned", The New York Times, January 16, 1990.
  34. ^ Bojangles: A Musical, 1985], WorldCat.org.
  35. ^ Outwater, Myra Yellin. "Muhlenberg premieres musical version of 'American Tragedy'", mcall.com, March 25, 2010.
  36. ^ "East And West: China And Broadway Come To Eastman For A Double-Bill Opera Premiere By Alumnus Charles Strouse" esm.rochester.edu, October 13, 2004
  37. ^ Gans, Andrew "Negro Ensemble Company to Present Charles Strouse-Leslie Lee Musical, Martin", Playbill.com, September 7, 2011.
  38. ^ " 'Bonnie and Clyde' Soundtrack, Credits" allmusic.com, retrieved December 10, 2017
  39. ^ The Night They Raided Minsky's tcm.com, retrieved December 11, 2017
  40. ^ There Was a Crooked Man... tcm.com, retrieved December 11, 2017
  41. ^ Just Tell Me What You Want tcm.com, retrieved December 11, 2017
  42. ^ Annie tcm.com, retrieved December 11, 2017
  43. ^ The Worst Witch tcm.com, retrieved December 11, 2017
  44. ^ Ishtar tcm.com, retrieved December 11, 2017
  45. ^ All Dogs Go to Heaven tcm.com, retrieved December 11, 2017
  46. ^ Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day tcm.com, retrieved December 11, 2017
  47. ^ a b " Rags Awards" ibdb.com, retrieved December 11, 2017
  48. ^ " Nick & Nora Awards" ibdb.com, retrieved December 11, 2017