In 1958, two years before Bye Bye Birdie and more than a decade and a half before Annie, composer Charles Strouse began his theatre songwriting career with a little musical that rarely has been heard about since: A Pound in Your Pocket.
The veil of obscurity will be raised a bit January 24 at 7 PM when Feinstein’s/54 Below hosts a concert version of the score, directed by Steven Carl McCasland as part of the club’s Second Act Series. The cast is yet to be announced.
Strouse and Adams, who were introduced to each other through a cousin, wrote this, their first show together, based on Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop about a teenaged girl who lives with her grandfather in the shop of the title. Strouse told Playbill, “I believe Lee discovered it through a radio play that had been written for Helen Hayes. We both thought it would make a fun musical.”
Written while the two were still in their 30s, A Pound in Your Pocket wasn’t intended for Broadway. “We never had the balls to aim as high as Broadway,“ he said. ”We didn't think it was a commercial piece, but a producer named Phil Burton championed it. It was done in Florida and critically acclaimed. It was performed with piano and percussion. I was the pianist. Dody Goodman, Helen Gallagher, and Melville Cooper were all in the cast!“
In addition to the title song, the score includes titles “Simple Girl,” “The Best Ain't Good Enough,” “Sleeping Dreams, Waking Dreams,” and what Strouse describes as “a lovely ballad” called “Someone Who Cares.” He said all the songs will sound fresh to fans’ ears because none was ever pulled out of a trunk for his many future shows, which also included Golden Boy, Nick & Nora, All-American, and the Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Applause.
He said there is no connection between A Pound in Your Pocket and the subsequent Bye Bye Birdie, other that that “it gave us the confidence to write another musical together.” This is not the first production in New York. The King's College mounted a student production in 2015, of which Strouse said, “I thought it was charming. They did it very well.”
Strouse is finding a home for some of his “lost” scores at Feinstein”s/54 Below. His one-performance A Broadway Musical was given a concert staging there on July 16, and the Second Act Series (McCasland and James Horan) is planning to mount his Bye Bye Birdie sequel, Bring Back Birdie, there on November 9.
Tickets, which cost $25–$60 plus a food/beverage minimum of $25, can be ordered by clicking here.