101 Stories: Charles Strouse

By The Children's Theatre

Celebrate TCT’s 101st season as it comes to a close as we applaud and appreciate those who contributed to the organization’s magic throughout our century-long journey.  During 10 weeks of recognition, we honor individuals who have been instrumental in the success of TCT, and who have not only helped TCT grow in mission, but also thrive, thanks to their passion.  It is these people and their moments in our history that shaped TCT to become what it is today. We encourage you to consider giving a gift in their honor to ensure the sustainability of TCT’s mission for the next 100+ years. 

Roderick Justice (left) with Charles Strouse (right)

In 2017, TCT went on a quest for a modern hero. It was found in two places: through TCT’s Script Development Division’s adaptation of It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman and in Charles Strouse, the living theatre legend and composer of the 1966 musical.

Over two years, the script was streamlined into a one-hour musical featuring 11 songs that worked for casts of children and casts of adults. The musical was given a new life through two productions: A student-led workshop, and a fully-produced run on the MainStage at The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati.  

Superman at the Taft Theatre in 2018

In a 2018 Playbill.com feature story, Mark Peikert wrote, “For a while, It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman seemed destined to live on as a cast album. Numerous efforts to rework and revise the 1966 musical had fallen flat. Then, just as in every superhero story, came an unlikely twist to save the day: The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati.”  

TCT was looking for shows and at thematic connections, and the idea of being a hero to stand up for what you believe is right felt extremely relevant to children. So, Artistic Director, Roderick Justice, reached out to pitch an idea to Tams-Witmark, the show’s licensing company.  

Roderick Justice remembers the experience well: “I cold-called Sargent, (President of Tams-Witmark) and said, ‘Hey, I think we could develop a really fun piece of theatre that would not only be relevant but also marketable with a successful future licensing to middle schools and theatres for young audiences.’ So, after a few calls to DC Comics, and to composer Charles Strouse, we were given the green light to move forward!” TCT started with a workshop led by a cast of 14 incredibly talented young performers from their young artist program led by Associate Artistic Director, Eric Byrd. 

The workshop eventually traveled to New York to perform the work for Tams-Witmark, Concord Theatricals, and Charles Strouse himself on his 90th Birthday. 

Charles Strouse with grandson, cast and company celebrating his 90th Birthday during the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati presentation for composer Charles Strouse of ‘Superman The Musical’ at Ripley Grier Studios on June 8, 2018 in New York City.

“During the NY Workshop, I was looking over at Charles Strouse giggle at the songs and at the pun-filled jokes. It was something I know TCT and these students will never forget. I am so grateful these students had the opportunity to work with a theatre legend, breathing new life into this production.”  

Because of Charles Strouse’s support of TCT, Tams-Witmark, now Concord Theatricals,  now licenses our adaptation of It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman worldwide.  

The music of Charles Strouse has touched the lives of almost every American in the last half-century. There may be no other living composer from America’s songbook whose work is as integrated into the popular culture as that of Charles Strouse. 

His music has attracted top recording artists such as Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Jay–Z, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington. 

Strouse has written scores for over 30 stage musicals, including 14 for Broadway. 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 two Grammy Awards. With hundreds of productions licensed annually, his musicals Annie and Bye Bye Birdie are among the most popular of all time–produced by regional, amateur, and school groups all over the world. 

When TCT asked Charles Strouse why The Children’s Theatre is so important, he replied, “Because it gets them in the habit of seeing something other than TV and it can inspire their imagination.” 

Would you honor Charles Strouse with a gift to recognize the impact made on TCT?

Barbara Siman and Charles Strouse with family during the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati presentation for composer Charles Strouse of ‘Superman The Musical’ at Ripley Grier Studios on June 8, 2018 in New York City.

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