Strouse told Playbill On-Line he was impressed by Trinity Rep's conceptual take on Annie in recent seasons and thought associate artistic director Amanda Dehnert's vision might match the quality of his new developing show. He pitched the script to her and two readings have resulted.
Strouse said he hopes You Never Know finds a launchpad in production at Trinity Rep, the respected resident Providence company now in its 40th season.
"I've written a few operas that have been done," Tony Award-winner Strouse said. "I'm feeling my oats, but on the other hand I feel I'm getting better and better. I've worked with enough good people that I think something's rubbed off."
You Never Know is not based on source material, and Strouse was reluctant to give too much away about the project.
"It's an original musical," he explained. "I know I'm crazy to try these things. I love doing what I do so much that, you know, I think, well, what am I going to do today?" What's the show about?
"It's about a neurotic young man," he said with a laugh. "Aren't we all? It's hard for me to talk about because the musical makes up its mind what it's about as it goes along. That's one of the springs to it: It doesn't know what it's going to be."
Although the Trinity staging of Annie in 2002-03 reportedly added a bleak frame that raised the eyebrows of Strouse's collaborators, the composer was taken with the imagination of director Dehnert's work.
"I thought she was terribly inventive and it kind of matched what I was doing" in You Never Know, he said.
Trinity Rep has not yet announced its 2004-05 season. For information, visit www.TrinityRep.com
Dehnert is the associate artistic director at Trinity Rep. She directed this season's productions of Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience and A Moon for the Misbegotten, last season's productions of The Skin of Our Teeth and Annie, and the 2001 2002 productions of Peter Pan or the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up and Noises Off, as well as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The New England Sonata, My Fair Lady, Othello, Saint Joan, We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay!and A Christmas Carol (1997).
She has served as musical director for My Fair Lady, A Christmas Carol (since 1998), The Threepenny Opera, As You Like It, The Music Man and The Cider House Rules, Part 1 & 2 and as co-musical director for Master Class.
A graduate of the Trinity Rep Conservatory, Ms. Dehnert is now proud to serve on the faculty of the Brown/Trinity Rep Consortium. In the past year, she received a Gielgud Fellowship (SDFC) and an Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Director (My Fair Lady and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?).
Strouse is one of the major Broadway composers to emerge after World War II and has always embraced a challenge, whether it's writing a modern chamber musical (The Future of the American Musical Theatre) penning sequels to his Annie and Bye Bye Birdie (namely, Annie Warbucks and Bring Back Birdie) or creating songs for stage versions of movies ("All About Eve" became Applause), comic books ("It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman!") or kid-lit favorites (Charlotte's Web, the musical).
His shows also include Golden Boy, A Broadway Musical, I and Albert, Charlie and Algernon, Rags, Dance a Little Closer and All American, among others.
He won Best Score Tony Awards for Annie (with lyricist Martin Charnin) and Applause (with longtime collaborator Lee Adams).
Strouse and Adams' musical version of Marty is aiming for Broadway in 2004-05 with John C. Reilly in the title role, though no dates or theatre have been announced. The duo have also written a musical version of Dreiser's "An American Tragedy" that has yet to be seen.