Stroman, Susan

Stroman, Susan
▪ 2002

      Of the record-breaking 12 Tony Awards won by the musical comedy The Producers in 2001, two went to Susan Stroman, the show's innovative director and choreographer. No stranger to honours, she had previously amassed three other Tonys, as well as multiple Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Laurence Olivier awards.

      “Stro,” as she was known, was born on Oct. 17, 1954, in Wilmington, Del., and grew up in a home in which music was prized. She loved watching Fred Astaire movies and later admitted that, even when she was very young, she visualized dance when she heard music. She began dance classes at age five and learned to play musical instruments. Stroman got some choreographing experience in local theatres during her student years in high school and at the University of Delaware, and in 1977, a year after graduation, she headed for New York City. Knowing that she would need to have some performing credentials before she could break into choreographing professionally, Stroman secured work in several shows and in 1980 became assistant director, assistant choreographer, and dance captain of a little-known show, Musical Chairs. In 1987, after spending several years at small choreographing jobs, she and a member of that show's cast, Scott Ellis, collaborated on an Off-Broadway revival of Flora, the Red Menace. It became a cult success and helped them make some important connections, which led to further work on such shows as the New York City Opera's Don Giovanni (1989) and the John Kander and Fred Ebb revue And the World Goes 'Round (1991). For the latter, Stroman won her first Outer Critics Circle Award for choreography. In 1992, her inventiveness was showcased to great success when she choreographed Crazy for You and took Broadway by storm, winning Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and later—for the London production—Olivier awards. Among shows that followed were Show Boat (1994), for which she was honoured with another Outer Critics Circle Award, Big (1996), Steel Pier (1997), and the London revival of Oklahoma! (1998), which won her another Olivier Award. Stroman's imagination took a different direction for Contact (1999), telling three separate stories almost entirely through dance; among that show's awards were Tonys for both choreography and best new musical. Another award-winning musical was the revival of The Music Man in 2000. Stroman also choreographed for film and television and counted such ballets as But Not for Me for the Martha Graham Company in 1998 and Blossom Got Kissed for the New York City Ballet in 1999 among her credits.

      Originally, Stroman's husband since 1995, Crazy for You director Mike Ockrent, was to have been director of The Producers, with Stroman as choreographer, but after he died in 1999, Stroman took over the directorship as well. In October 2001 yet another of her efforts as director-choreographer opened in New York City—Thou Shalt Not, a musical version of Émile Zola's Thérèse Raquin. Oklahoma!, with Stroman's London choreography, was scheduled to open in New York in March 2002, Broadway's first production of that play without the original Agnes de Mille choreography.

Barbara Whitney

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Universalium. 2010.

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