“It hits me: Life should be like musicals: along with the sentimental ballads and the sadness hiding in the shadows, laughs, lots of laughs, and dancing always. I think I understand that now.
You can write the pain (God knows there’s enough of it), or you can let loose with the joy.
Why did I remember half this stuff? Because it’s a memoir, pal.
But it’s not. It’s a musical comedy.”
– Charles Strouse, from his memoir Put on a Happy Face
If you’re itching for something to read, I highly suggest Mr. Strouse’s memoir. I got it last night and finished it early this afternoon: it’s engaging, honest and always entertaining (and occasionally dishy). There are many other amusing anecdotes and quotes, but you have to read the book in order to get some of those (Arthur Laurents, how could you? oh wait… we remember).
You get his perspective on the many shows of his career, from his summer revues at Green Mansions all the way up to Marty (which according to a photo caption in the book recorded a cast album last year with John C. Reilly and Carolee Carmello) and The Night They Invaded Minsky’s (which will be mounted in LA at the Ahmanson in late 2009, with Bob Martin as the new librettist). Lots of colorful characters along the way. Mr. Strouse seems like a very congenial, approachable gentleman who has supplied us with several standards of the canon like Bye Bye Birdie and Annie, hits like Applause and Golden Boy, but also with several misfires, such as Rags, Annie 2, Bring Back Birdie, to name a few. I knew he and his frequent collaborator Lee Adams wrote the iconic “Those Were the Days” for All in the Family. What I didn’t know was that the presentation with Jean Stapleton and Carroll O’Connor was Strouse’s idea (stemming from a lack of budget and a nostalgic homage to his own parents). The only complaint? I wish the book were more in depth.