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Put on a Happy Face: A Broadway Memoir Hardcover – July 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Union Square Press; 1 edition (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402758898
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402758898
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,313,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Strouse is best-known for having written the music for the Broadway hits Bye Bye Birdie and Annie, both somewhat lightweight shows—the first, a lighthearted look at teen life, circa 1960; the other, a singing-dancing version of the classic comic strip Little Orphan Annie. Yet both have grace and power that haven’t diminished over the years. The same may come to be said of this lively, highly readable memoir. Strouse touches on the darker themes in his life—his mother’s mental illness, his own battles with self-esteem—but lightly. He spends much more time recounting, in a gentle, amusing tone, the episodes of his life: Depression-era childhood, years of struggle working for summer camps and playing dance rehearsals, and myriad triumphs and bombs on Broadway and off. What is truly remarkable is how free of ego and bitterness this autobiography is. Even Strouse’s two much-publicized Broadway flops, Nick and Nora and Dance a Little Closer (speciously aka Close a Little Faster), are handled with aplomb. One finishes the book utterly charmed by the man and his wit. --Jack Helbig

Review

“Charles Strouse is one of the most talented composers ever known to Broadway.  His life in music makes for truly wonderful reading.”

—Mel Brooks (Book writer for All-American, 1962)

 

“Charles Strouse is an American treasure. Put on a Happy Face tells the remarkable story of his amazing life and achievements, with hefty doses of Charles' trademark humor and humility.”

 —Carol Burnett (Miss Hannigan in the film version of Annie, 1989)

 

“I have vivid and marvelous memories of working with Charles Strouse, first on his revue By Strouse and then in the Broadway cast of Annie. He is a great writer, a completely musical person, and a great teacher.”

—Sarah Jessica Parker (Annie in the original Broadway run of Annie, 1979)

 

“Charles is one of the great ones.”

—Dick Van Dyke (Albert Peterson in the original Broadway run of Bye Bye Birdie, 1960)

 

“Charles has enriched Broadway and our lives with his remarkable talent.”

—Chita Rivera (Rose Alvarez in the original Broadway run of Bye Bye Birdie, 1960)

 

“Charles Strouse's music goes down in Broadway history--it's as apple pie as you can get!”

—Vanessa Williams (Rose Alvarez in the television movie Bye Bye Birdie, 1995)

 

"Strouse's superb backstage memoir deserves a standing ovation."--Publishers Weekly

 

"[a] lively, highly readable memoir...One finishes the book utterly charmed by the man and his wit. —Booklist

 

"[F]ull of funny anecdotes [and] juicy gossip… [B]eautifully written, funny and touching…a wonderful evocation of a great career." --Howard Kissell, The Daily News

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 15 customer reviews
Highly recommended and a fast read!
Opera Fan
All that talent and honest personality come through in the pages of this book.
Charles Grippo
Charles Strouse is one of the last of a generation of great tune smiths.
Musicalboy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Charles Grippo on July 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well written, funny as hell, and eminently readable "Put On a Happy Face" is as entertaining as any of Charles Strouse's best shows. In this book, whose title is taken from one of his many standards, Strouse takes us on a journey through the Broadway musical theater of the last fifty years. Along the way we meet the legends with whom he has worked (and with whom he has occasionally battled): David Merrick, Mel Brooks, Lauren Bacall, Dick Van Dyke, Gower Champion, Joshua Logan, Mike Nichols, Arthur Laurents, Alan Jay Lerner. He demonstrates how tough it is to write a musical and how much tougher it is to get it produced, only to have the critics break your heart. But he also shows the exhilaration and thrills when the show is a smash hit, like Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, or Annie.He clears up the confusion regarding his (and Lee Adams') contributions to Hello, Dolly!, especially laying to rest once and for all (one hopes) the rumors concerning the true authorship of "Before the Parade Passes By."
Strouse has had a fabulous career. Besides the hit shows, so many of his songs have become standards: "Tomorrow," "You've Got Possibilities," "Once Upon a Time," "Kids," "A Lot of Livin' To Do," and others. Buffs worship his score for Rags. His title song for Dance a Little Closer is gorgeous. His theme song for All in the Family --- "Those Were the Days" is one of the best known tv themes ever. If you analyze "The Telephone Hour" measure by measure, you will be astonished by the musicianship. In person, Charles Strouse is warm, gracious, and, to borrow the title of one of his songs, a "perfect gentleman." All that talent and honest personality come through in the pages of this book.
Don't miss it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Musicalboy on July 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Coco Pazzo on July 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A must-read for all fans of musical theatre, this heart-warming candid and funny autobiography provides a fascinating look into the world of showbusiness. Charles Strouse writes candidly about his ups-and-downs in showbusiness, the nagging insecurities that have followed him throughout his career and of course provides juicy tidbits about Teresa Stratas, Arthur Laurents, Leondard Bernstein and more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. Arsenault on February 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Well, I just finished reading Charles Strouse new autobiography, and I agree with a lot of what the other reviewers have written here: a quick read, fascinating life, lots of interesting acquaintances, and a composer who has a significant body of work.

I also agree that a lot of gaps in his story aren't explained, especially why he and Lee Adams stopped writing together---there is only a vague reference to Mr. Adams diminishing interest in writing for NY Theater.

What disappointed me most about the book is the writing style--it's too stream of consciousness for my taste. I have never seen any author use so many parenthetical phrases as does Mr. Strouse. The result is choppy writing, filled with tangents, written the way some people talk, instead of showing signs of a good book editor.

Of course, I shouldn't be surprised that the writing is not up to par: Mr. Strouse is a very good composer, not a lyricist. His talent lies in notes and rhythms, not in words. His attempts at humor miss the mark, in that they are too mild or predictable. He is not a natural story teller. I respect his body of work and enjoy many recordings of his tunes, espcially Jason Grae's "Your never fully dressed.." however, I am now aware that musicians are not writers.

Charles Stouse paints a terrible picture of Arthur Laurents, but Mr. Laurent's autobiography is far better crafted, witty, and interesting. Mr. Strouse's book is worth reading if you are intersted in 20th century musical theater, but you'll need to get beyond the choppy writing and bland story telling in order to appreciate what an interesting life Mr. Strouse has had.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. L. Parsons on August 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A truly enjoyable and quick read. Many insights are offered into the world of Broadway musicals. Strouse reveals several things about himself that are very interesting. Some Broadway writers,producers, etc. really come off as horse's a---s. Like the bit where he ways he has made more money than he can spend. Was sorry that it wasn't longer!
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