SONG WRITERS, THE: AN EVENING WITH CHARLES STROUSE (TV)

Summary

One in this series of evenings with prominent songwriters in which they discuss and perform their notable works. In this episode, songwriter Charles Strouse discusses his Broadway shows up to and including 1978’s “A Broadway Musical,” and performs songs from his various shows with lyricist and associate Martin Charnin and singers Debbie Shapiro and Allison Smith.

The program begins as Strouse takes the stage and performs “Tomorrow” from “Annie” at the piano. He then discusses the joy of hearing one’s own music performed, and ponders why some songs succeed and others fail. He addresses his wildly successful first show, “Bye Bye Birdie,” which he wrote with Lee Adams, and brings Shapiro and Smith to the stage to join him on songs from the show, including “One Boy,” “One Last Kiss,” “We Love You, Conrad!” and the title song.

Strouse then talks about early problems with the show, particularly with a phenomenon known as “the backer’s audition,” when creators pitch their show to potential financial backers for approval. Charnin joins him onstage as they “recreate” the backer’s audition for “Birdie,” with Charnin’s “character” troubled by Strouse’s designs and the show's projected budget. Strouse then performs “Once Upon a Time” from his second musical, the unsuccessful “All American,” as originally sung by Ray Bolger. He then discusses the show “Golden Boy,” a musical about racial tension in America which became a hit, despite controversial material. Strouse and Shapiro perform two songs from "Golden Boy": “I Want To Be With You” and “Lorna’s Here.”

Returning to “Bye Bye Birdie,” Strouse recalls a disagreement he had with stage director Gower Champion about the staging of the song “How Lovely To Be a Woman,” which is then performed by Smith. The song “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” was one of the musical’s least successful songs until pop singer Jack Jones recorded it in 1961 and it became a hit; Strouse and Shapiro perform the tune.

Next, Strouse discusses the show “Applause,” adapted from Joseph Mankiewicz’s 1950 film “All About Eve.” Shapiro sings one of the show's hit songs, “Welcome to the Theatre.” Strouse then explores his “Norman Lear period,” during which he wrote the theme song for the show “All in the Family” as created by Lear, and then performs the piece, “Those Were the Days.” Next, Strouse, Smith, and Shapiro sing “Take Ten Terrific Girls” from the 1968 film “The Night They Raided Minsky’s” (later adapted into the stage musical “Minsky’s”), followed by “But Alive” from "Applause" and the title song from “Applause.”

After Strouse sings “You’ve Got Possibilities” from “It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane … It’s Superman,” the discussion moves to the hit show “Annie.” Shapiro plays the role of the backer as Strouse and Charnin again parody their initial attempts to get funding for the show. They perform “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” but the backer hesitates to finance a musical based on a comic strip.

Though ultimately getting the money, the pair encountered problems when realizing that they “had no first act” and wrote a song that helped with the plot's structure: “Easy Street,” which they perform. They then ran into trouble with the opening number, explaining that most musicals begin with a flashy, upbeat tune to showcase the budget. But as the musical was set during the Depression, they opted for a more melancholy number sung by street vendors entitled “Apples,” which Strouse and Charnin sing. The tune proved ineffective, so they swapped it for a more dynamic song featuring the orphans, “It’s The Hard-Knock Life,” which they perform. However, this song was eventually moved to a later point in the show, and the ballad “Maybe” became the opening number. Smith retakes the stage to perform the song.

Smith, Shapiro, Strouse and Charnin then sing the title song from “A Broadway Musical.” Strouse explains that while he was once averse to happy endings -- perceiving them as unrealistic -- he changed his mind over time. The program concludes as the four performers reprise “Tomorrow” from “Annie.” Strouse sings "Put on a Happy Face" from "Bye Bye Birdie" over the end credits. Commercials deleted.

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Details

  • NETWORK: CBS Cable
  • DATE: March 9, 1982
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:00:00
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: B:73416
  • GENRE: Music/Variety
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Music/Variety
  • SERIES RUN: CBS Cable - TV series, 1981-1982
  • COMMERCIALS:

CREDITS

    • Maurice Levine … Executive Producer
    • Richard Seader … Executive Producer
    • Sonny Fox … Producer
    • Roger Englander … Producer
    • Myles Kidder … Director
    • Charles Strouse … Performer
    • Martin Charnin … Performer
    • Debbie Shapiro … Performer
    • Allison Smith … Performer
    • Lee Adams
    • Ray Bolger
    • Gower Champion
    • Jack Jones
    • Norman Lear
    • Joseph Mankiewicz