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Case Number 08850: Small Claims Court

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The Songwriters: Charles Strouse And Arthur Schwartz

Koch Vision // 1980 // 101 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Pope (Retired) // March 18th, 2006

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All Rise...

The sun will come out tomorrow, but Judge Bryan Pope says pull out those umbrellas and galoshes, because Wednesday will be overcast with scattered showers.

The Charge

Welcome to the theater, to the magic, to the fun!

The Case

Now this is entertainment! Composers Charles Strouse (Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, Annie) and Arthur Schwartz (The Band Wagon) take center stage in this entry in The Songwriters series of DVDs, and they give us quite a show.

The disc contains two programs, "An Evening with Charles Strouse" and "An Evening with Arthur Schwartz." Both were taped in the early '80s before a studio audience, so don't expect any frills. There are no sets, no costumes, minimal staging, and only a three- or four-piece band to accompany the singers.

Strouse's program is the better of the two, largely because he has an impressive array of crowd-pleasing shows from which to draw. He is not a strong singer, but he's an engaging storyteller with a keen sense of humor (check out his quick take on Edith Bunker when he sings "Those Were the Days"). When simply telling a story just won't do, he pulls his collaborator, lyricist Martin Charnin, onstage for a skit.

Strouse does sing, but he wisely leaves the more muscular musical numbers to belters Debbie Shapiro and Allison Smith (the lead in Broadway's Annie at the time, and a good 20 years away from playing Leo McGrarry's daughter on The West Wing). Shapiro, a long-time supporting player on Broadway, is a joy to listen to, especially when she's channeling Margo Channing during "Welcome to the Theater," from Applause. "How Lovely to be a Woman" is an odd fit for the ten-year-old Smith, but she sells it with her astonishing range and professionalism. What a performance.

Schwartz, on the other hand, doesn't have a bad voice at all, but he still turns the heavy lifting over to three professionals. Nancy Dussault (Ted Knight's wife on Too Close for Comfort) and Judy Kaye are the strongest, but Edward Evanko also shines, particularly during the Band Wagon medley.

By this time, Schwartz had been around Hollywood for decades, and he shares some wonderful stories. His memory is phenomenal, and his delivery has just a touch of sadness over faces and places long since gone. Schwartz's evening is filled with funny, poignant moments, and no musical lover should miss it.

"An Evening with Charles Strouse" stars Strouse, Shapiro, Smith, and Martin Charnin. It features the songs:

• "One Boy"
• "One Last Kiss"
• "We Love You, Conrad"
• "Bye Bye Birdie"
• "Once Upon a Time"
• "I Want to be With You"
• "Lorna's Here"
• "How Lovely to be a Woman"
• "Lot of Living to Do"
• "Welcome to the Theater"
• "Those Were the Days"
• "Take 10 Terrific Girls"
• "Applause"
• "You've Got Possibilities"
• "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile"
• "Easy Street"
• "Apples, Apples"
• "It's the Hardknock Life"
• "Maybe"
• "Broadway Musical"
• "Tomorrow"

"An Evening with Arthur Schwartz" stars Schwartz, Dussault, Kaye, and Evanko. It features the songs:

• "Dancing in the Dark"
• "I Love to Lie Awake in Bed"
• "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan"
• "If There is Someone Lovelier Than You"
• "A Shine On Your Shoes"
• "Alone Together"
• "Rhode Island is Famous For You"
• "I Love Louisa"
• "Something to Remember You By"
• "New Sun in the Sky"
• "I See Your Face Before Me"
• "You and the Night and the Music"
• "Louisiana Hayride"
• "By Myself"
• "I'm Like a New Broom"
• "Make the Man Love Me"
• "I'll Buy You a Star"
• "Look Who's Dancing"
• "A Rainy Night in Rio"
• "Silent Night"
• "Then I'll be Tired of You"
• "They're Either Too Young or Too Old"
• "That's Entertainment"

The Songwriters—Charles Strouse and Arthur Schwartz is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio with, I believe, a Dolby mono soundtrack. Audio is by no stretch of the imagination dynamic, but I had no trouble hearing the performers. The package includes brief text bios on both Strouse and Schwartz, as well as program credits. No subtitles.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: Koch Vision
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• None
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Concerts and Musicals
• Performance

Distinguishing Marks

• Text bios
• Program credits

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