Help me "Put on a Happy Face"! (sorry, had to do it)
July 10, 2008 7:20 PM   Subscribe

What would you ask a well-known Broadway composer, maybe even a "legend"?

Tomorrow I am interviewing Charles Strouse for a story. I have been reading up on his life (he turned 80 this year), and I usually come up with good interview questions, but on this one I am almost blanking. Help!
posted by trillian to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How did you get your big break?
What advice do you have for people hoping to break into Broadway today?
How did you achieve success?
What was it like back then?
How have things changed?
What is your favourite memory from?
What do you regard as your greatest success, and why?
posted by KokuRyu at 7:38 PM on July 10, 2008

I would love to ask a composer of his stature if he's gone to a lot of high school/community theater versions of his work, and what he thought about them.
Also, if you could get him to tell you about how the work changes from conception to opening night -- does he adapt music to the voices of actors, does he change tempos to fit actor's abilities, etc. Also, what's his favorite version of one of his songs that became a radio hit, as opposed to a number off a cast album? Have fun -- I would love to meet him.
posted by mmf at 7:41 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would ask him about his composing process, how he edits his songs, how he knows when a song is *right,* etc. I'd ask him about the collaborative process, and what attracts him to a good lyric.

I'd ask him if any of his songs surprised him by being more (or less) popular than he expected.

I'd ask him who his favorite Annie has been.

I'd ask him what direction he planned/intended/expected for his career when he was starting out, and how that compares to reality.

I'd play him the Jay-Z "It's a Hard Knock Life" and ask him to comment!

I'd ask him some broadway then-and-now types of questions, regarding the industry. What is his favorite new show?

I'd ask him to comment on the differences between composing for theatre and for film, and in particular for animated film.

I'd ask him about upcoming projects, what he works on in his spare time, etc.

I'd ask him to play me some songs!

I'd ask him to play (or tell me about) me his very first attempt at songwriting, the silly goofy thing he must have written when he was 5 and was so proud of...

I read one interview with Stephen Sondheim where they asked something along the lines of "What song of someone else's do you WISH you had written?" (I believe his answer was "Ice Cream" from "She Loves Me")

I'd ask him about influences, and particularly mentors, teachers, people who helped him get his start, etc.

If you publish this interview, will you post a link for us?
posted by Alabaster at 8:02 PM on July 10, 2008

I'd ask him about his sad and gorgeous (and cut!) song "Smashing New York Times" and whether he still feels that those lyrics are true about people in the theatre world.

And I'd ask him what some of his favorite (and least favorite!) musicals have been from the past few years, and why. I'd love to know what he thinks of "Avenue Q", for example.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:01 AM on July 11, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for al the great answers! They were a big help -- I was just "stuck" for some reason. I spoke to him this afternoon and he was such a nice, down-to-earth, "real" person. I had been so nervous about this interview for no reason. It went really well -- he is so well-spoken and often "speaks in quotes," which is every journalist's dream. I would post a link to the story when it comes out, but I just really want to keep my username on here totally anonymous ... sorry! One interesting thing -- they're going to do a revival of "Bye Bye Birdie" on Broadway soon. (By the way -- his memoir, and first book, Put on a Happy Face, is out this month. What I've read so far is pretty interesting.)
posted by trillian at 5:20 PM on July 11, 2008

Response by poster: Actually, I could send the link to anyone who wants it (when it's posted in a month or two) if you MeFiMail me. Does my profile let you do that? I'm not sure... ?
posted by trillian at 5:30 PM on July 11, 2008

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