Strouse at 80 Always Looking Toward Tomorrow

No matter what we do or where we go, there are certain songs that stay with us and inspire us. But many times, we associate the songs with the shows and not with the people who created them. Well, it is with the deepest gratitude and respect that I share this interview with all of you for one of Broadway's greatest composers, Mr. Charles Strouse. And I apologize to Mr. Strouse if I gush, as I know from speaking with him that he really doesn't feel comfortable about people gushing, but I do it out of respect for the work he has done and continues to do.

On June 7, 2008, Charles Strouse, the award winning composer of Annie, Bye Bye Birdie and some of the most popular music from the last 50 years of Broadway, film and television, turned 80.  To mark the occasion, a year-long celebration of events including concerts, international tributes, revivals of popular favorites and premieres of new works will take place across the United States and around the world.

Strouse has written the score to over 30 stage musicals, 14 scores for Broadway, four Hollywood films, two orchestral works and an opera.  He has been inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Theatre Hall of Fame.  He is a three-time Tony Award winner, a two-time Emmy Award winner, and his cast recordings have earned him two Grammy Awards.  His song "Those Were The Days" launched over 200 episodes of the "All in the Family" and continues to reach new generations of television audiences in syndication.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Charles Strouse

TJ:   Congratulations on fifty years of entertaining people all over the world!

STROUSE:  Thank you.

TJ:   So how does it feel?

STROUSE:  I feel pretty much undeserving, if that's a way to put it. You know, it's something you want…admiration, adulation and all that. But deep down, between you and me, who deserves it?

TJ:  Well, with the work that you've done, from the perspective of someone from the outside looking in, it's been such a wonderful body of work and so many people around the world appreciate the work you have done everyday.

STROUSE:  Thank you. I just got back from a doctors appointment and I said, "Gee. What you do is so fantastic. I always wanted to be a doctor and give people comfort and cure them and all that."  He's a fine doctor and he said, "Well, look at what you do?"   Well, I do what I do because I don't know what else to do. The short answer is it feels great.

TJ:    I think everybody contributes to life in a certain way and we're all appreciative to some respect of each others contributions. Now, there are all sorts of celebrations going on over the year, which will be keeping you really busy.

STROUSE:  Yes because I turned 80, which is unusual for my family as both my parents died before or in their early 60's. But I feel great. I'm doing a lot of work. I guess there's something mystic about 80. Maybe next year it will be 90….who knows?

TJ:   When you look back on all the work you've done over the past 50 years, it has got to be fulfilling for you.

STROUSE:  As I said before, I don't know what I else I would do. I was trained. You're a writer. You get trained in it…someone explains a metaphor or something and suddenly, it's the only thing you want to do. It's your teachers. I had very good teachers. I wake up every morning wanting to write something.

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TJ Fitzgerald TJ Fitzgerald has been interviewing theatre’s finest talent with since January 2006. He has been active in the New England Theatre scene both as a participant (acting and directing) and an enthusiast of the entertainment scene for over 40 years. He was a featured columnist writing interviews and theatre features for New England Entertainment Digest and served on the Board of the New England Theatre Conference (NETC) for several years. Some of his noteworthy interviews have included entertainment luminaries like Tony Award winners Tommy Tune, Sutton Foster, Karen Ziemba, Michael Rupert, Faith Prince, Joanna Gleason and Gregory Jbara, Tony Nominees Brad Oscar, Keith Carradine and Andrea McArdle, Oscar nominee Marsha Mason, Oscar winning songwriter Paul Williams, Adrienne Barbeau and Oscar/Emmy award winning composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz. 2009 saw a milestone for TJ as he was welcomed to the 50's. In TJ’s words, "Life is good! Everyone's got a great story to tell and I am all ears! Theatre is my life!"