Susan P. Stroman (born October 17, 1954) is an American theatre director, choreographer, film director and performer. Her most notable theater productions include The Producers, Crazy for You, Contact, and The Scottsboro Boys. She is a five-time Tony Award winner, four for Best Choreography and one as Best Director of a Musical for The Producers. In addition, she is a recipient of two Laurence Olivier Awards, five Drama Desk Awards, eight Outer Critics Circle Awards, two Lucille Lortel Awards, and the George Abbott Award for Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater. She is an inductee of the Theater Hall of Fame in New York City.
|Born||October 17, 1954|
Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.
|Occupation||Choreographer, performer, theatre director|
|Spouse(s)||Mike Ockrent (1996–1999, his death)|
Stroman was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the daughter of Frances (née Nolan) and Charles Harry Stroman. She was exposed to show tunes by her piano-playing salesman father. She began studying dance, concentrating on jazz, tap, and ballet at the age of five. She studied under James Jamieson at the Academy of the Dance in Wilmington. She majored in English at the University of Delaware. She performed, choreographed and directed at community theaters in the Delaware and Philadelphia area.
After graduating in 1976, she moved to New York City. Her first professional appearance was in Hit the Deck at the Goodspeed Opera House in 1977. Later that year she was cast in the role of Hunyak in the National Tour of Chicago – which marked her first time working with composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb.
Her first Broadway credit was as an ensemble member in the 1979 musical Whoopee!. In 1980 she was assistant director, assistant choreographer, and dance captain for the Broadway show Musical Chairs. Wanting to direct and choreograph instead of perform, Stroman concentrated on creating for the theater. She worked in small venues as a director and choreographer in various industrial shows, club acts and commercials.
Early career: Flora the Red Menace (1987) to Center Stage (2000)
Stroman's big break as a choreographer came in 1987 with the Off-Broadway revival of Flora the Red Menace (music by John Kander and Fred Ebb) at the Vineyard Theatre near Union Square. Her work there was seen by Hal Prince, who hired her to create the dance sequences for his New York City Opera production of Don Giovanni.
Her relationship with Kander and Ebb led to co-creating, along with Scott Ellis and David Thompson, the 1991 hit Off-Broadway musical And the World Goes 'Round. In 1992 she went on to choreograph Liza Stepping Out at Radio City Music Hall starring Liza Minnelli, receiving an Emmy nomination for her work. Later that year she earned her third Broadway credit for her collaboration with director, and then-future husband, Mike Ockrent on Crazy for You. The show won the Tony Award for Best Musical and she won her first Tony Award for Best Choreography.
In 1994, Stroman won her second Tony Award when she collaborated with Prince on a revival of Show Boat, where she used some of her most innovative ideas. She added several dance montages to the show, complete with a revolving door, to help guide the audience through the generations that are covered in the show. Stroman heavily researched the period in which the show takes place and learned that African-Americans are credited for inventing the Charleston. She used that information in designing the montages, as the popular dance is introduced by and eventually appropriated from the black characters. In 1994, Stroman collaborated again with her husband Mike Ockrent on the holiday spectacular A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden, which ran for 10 years, and the Broadway musical Big, The Musical (1996). She returned to her collaboration with Kander and Ebb, Ellis and Thompson on the Broadway musical Steel Pier (1997). In 1999, her choreography of Oklahoma!, directed by Trevor Nunn at the Royal National Theater, won Stroman her second Olivier Award for her outstanding choreography. Stroman's husband Mike Ockrent died from leukemia on December 2, 1999.
She immersed herself in her work and directed and choreographed her first Broadway show as director, the 2000 revival of The Music Man. At the same time, Stroman was approached by Lincoln Center Theater's artistic director Andre Bishop, who offered assistance with developing the project of her choice. She and John Weidman, who had written the book for Big, began working on what would become the three-part "dance play" Contact, which she choreographed as well as directed. The show opened at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse Theater in the fall of 1999, and later transferred to the larger Vivian Beaumont Theater, where it was reclassified as a musical. It won the 2000 Tony Award for Best Musical. Stroman won her third Tony Award for best choreography. Contact won a 2003 Emmy Award for Outstanding Classical Music-Dance Program when a live broadcast of the show appeared as an episode of PBS's Live from Lincoln Center. For Lincoln Center Theater, Stroman went on to direct and choreograph Thou Shalt Not (2001) with music by Harry Connick Jr. and The Frogs (2004) with book by Nathan Lane.
Career after 2001: The Producers (2001) to present
In 2001, Stroman directed and choreographed the Mel Brooks musical The Producers. Stroman's late husband, Ockrent, had initially been named to direct. It was a commercial success and won a record twelve Tony Awards. Stroman won her fourth and fifth Tony Awards for direction and choreography, becoming the first woman to win both awards in the same night. She was also the second woman ever to win Best Direction of a Musical after Julie Taymor in 1998. In 2005, she made her feature film directorial debut with a film adaptation of the show. The movie was nominated for four Golden Globe Awards.
In 2007, she again collaborated with Brooks, as director and choreographer of the musical Young Frankenstein. In the fall of 2017, she and Brooks opened a newly revised version of the show at the Garrick Theatre in London’s West End after a successful tryout at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle.
She directed and choreographed the musical Happiness, which has a book by John Weidman, music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie. The musical opened in February 2009 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center.
The musical The Scottsboro Boys opened at the Vineyard Theatre in February 2010. The music is by Kander and Ebb and the book is by David Thompson; Stroman both directed and choreographed. The show later transferred to Broadway where it ran for 49 performances at the Lyceum Theatre and received 12 Tony Award Nominations. Regional theaters such as the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, San Diego's Old Globe, American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, and the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles have all mounted successful productions of the show. In 2013, Stroman directed the UK premiere of the show at the Young Vic in London. After its successful run there, the show transferred to the West End where it was honored with the 2014 Evening Standard’s Ned Sherrin Award.
She co-directed with Hal Prince the new musical Paradise Found, which premiered at the Menier Chocolate Factory (London) on May 19, 2010. The cast included Mandy Patinkin, Judy Kaye and Shuler Hensley.
Stroman directed and choreographed the new musical, Big Fish with songs by Andrew Lippa and book by John August. The show, based on the book and film of the same name, opened at the Oriental Theater in Chicago in April and May 2013 and then ran on Broadway in September 2013 to December 2013.
She directed and choreographed the new musical Little Dancer, which ran at the Kennedy Center, Eisenhower Theater from October 25, 2014 to November 30. The book and lyrics are by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty.
Stroman collaborated with Prince once again as co-director of a new musical entitled Prince of Broadway, a retrospective of the career and life of Hal Prince. The show has orchestrations and new material written by Jason Robert Brown. The revue premiered in Tokyo at the Tokyu Theatre Orb in October 2015 and then ran in Osaka in November through December 2015, and featured Tony Yazbeck, Ramin Karimloo, Shuler Hensley and Nancy Opel. It premiered on Broadway on August 24, 2017 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre – a co-production of the Manhattan Theatre Club and Gorgeous Entertainment. The book is by David Thompson.
In 2016 she returned to the Vineyard Theatre to direct the play Dot, written by Colman Domingo. The following year she directed and choreographed her fourth collaboration with the Vineyard Theatre, The Beast in the Jungle, winning the 2018 Joe Callaway Award for excellence in choreography. The music was composed by John Kander and the book written by David Thompson.
In the spring of 2019 she directed and choregraphed Marie, Dancing Still for Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre. A newly reworked and retitled production of Little Dancer, the show starred Tiler Peck reprising her title role alongside Terrence Mann and Louise Pitre.
In 2004, Stroman was the first woman to choreograph a full-length ballet for New York City Ballet. Double Feature, with music by Irving Berlin and Walter Donaldson, is now in the New York City Ballet repertory.
Stroman had previously worked with New York City Ballet in 1999, when she created Blossom Got Kissed, featuring the music of Duke Ellington, to celebrate the company's 50th Anniversary season. She later revisited the piece, choreographing three additional short dances to be performed alongside the original. This new expanded ballet entitled For the Love of Duke premiered in May 2011.
The world premiere of Take Five…More Or Less with The Pacific Northwest Ballet opened in 2008. Stroman combined jazz music by Dave Brubeck and classical pointe work. The ballet is now in their repertoire.
Awards and nominations
Stroman received the Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre for 2018, presented by the York Theatre Company. Other notable awards include Glamour Magazine's Woman of the Year Award (2001), The George Abbott Award for Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater (2002), and the Sackler Center First Award (2012) honoring extraordinary women who are first in their field.
In 2005 Stroman received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Delaware.
- 1980 Musical Chairs (1980 Musical) (Assistant Director/Choreographer) (Broadway)
- 1987 Flora the Red Menace (Choreographer) (Off-Broadway)
- 1989 Don Giovanni (Choreographer) (New York City Opera)
- 1990 A Little Night Music (Choreographer) (New York City Opera)
- 1991 And The World Goes 'Round (Choreographer) (Off-Broadway)
- 1992 Liza Minnelli – Stepping Out At Radio City (Choreographer)
- 1992 110 in the Shade (Choreographer) (New York City Opera)
- 1992 Crazy for You (Choreographer) (Broadway)
- 1993 Crazy for You (Choreographer) (West End)
- 1994 Show Boat (Choreographer) (Broadway)
- 1994 Picnic (Choreographer of Musical Interludes) (Broadway)
- 1994 A Christmas Carol (Choreographer) (Madison Square Garden)
- 1996 Big (Choreographer) (Broadway)
- 1997 Steel Pier (Choreographer) (Broadway)
- 1998 Show Boat (Choreographer) (West End)
- 1998 Oklahoma! (Choreographer) (West End)
- 1999 Contact (Director/Choreographer) (Off-Broadway) (Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center Theater)
- 2000 The Music Man (Director/Choreographer) (Broadway)
- 2000 Contact (Director/Choreographer) (Broadway) (Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center Theater)
- 2001 The Producers (Director/Choreographer) (Broadway)
- 2001 Thou Shalt Not (Director/Choreographer/creator) (Broadway) (Lincoln Center Theater)
- 2002 Oklahoma! (Choreographer) (Broadway)
- 2002 Contact (Director/Choreographer) (West End)
- 2004 The Frogs (Director/Choreographer) (Broadway) (Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center Theater)
- 2004 The Producers (Director/Choreographer) (West End)
- 2005 Dedication or The Stuff of Dreams (Choreographer of Musical Interludes) (Off-Broadway)
- 2007 Young Frankenstein (Director/Choreographer) (Broadway)
- 2008 Happiness (Director/Choreographer) (Off-Broadway) (Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center Theater)
- 2010 The Scottsboro Boys (Director/Choreographer) (Off-Broadway) (Vineyard Theatre)
- 2010 Paradise Found (Co-director/Choreographer) (Menier Chocolate Factory)
- 2010 The Scottsboro Boys (Director/Choreographer) (Broadway) (Lyceum Theatre)
- 2013 Big Fish (Director/Choreographer) (Broadway) (Neil Simon Theatre)
- 2014 Bullets over Broadway (Director/Choreographer) (Broadway) (St. James Theatre)
- 2014 Little Dancer (Director/Choreographer) Kennedy Center
- 2015 The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville (Director/Choreographer) (Off-Broadway)
- 2015 Prince of Broadway (Co-director/Choreographer) Tokyo
- 2016 Dot (Director) (Off-Broadway) (Vineyard Theatre)
- 2017 Prince of Broadway (Co-director/Choreographer) (Broadway) (Manhattan Theater Club)
- 2017 Young Frankenstein (Director/Choreographer) (West End)
- 2018 Beast in the Jungle (Director/Choreographer) (Off-Broadway) (Vineyard Theater)
- 2019 Marie, Dancing Still (Director/Choreographer) (Seattle's 5th Avenue Theater)
- 1997 But Not for Me (Martha Graham Company)
- 1999 Blossom Got Kissed (New York City Ballet)
- 2004 Double Feature: The Blue Necklace and Makin' Whoopee (New York City Ballet)
- 2008 Take Five...More or Less (Pacific Northwest Ballet)
- 2011 For the Love of Duke (New York City Ballet)
- "Susan Stroman Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
- Susan Stroman Biography tributemovies.com, retrieved January 5, 2010
- Hetrick, Adam. "Arcelus, Foster, Gleason and More Find Happiness at Lincoln Center Starting Feb. 27", Playbill, February 27, 2009
- Hernandez, Ernio. "Stroman Brings New Musical The Scottsboro Boys to Off-Broadway" Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine Playbill.com, February 12, 2010
- Gardner, Lyn (October 20, 2013). "The Scottsboro Boys review – a dazzling civil rights musical". guardian.com. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
- Jones, Kenneth."Prince and Stroman Unveil New Musical Paradise Found in London May 19" playbill.com, May 19, 2010
- Gioia, Michael. "Big Fish, With Norbert Leo Butz and Kate Baldwin, Ends Chicago Run May 5; Broadway Is Next" Archived 2013-09-06 at the Wayback Machine, Playbill.com, May 2013
- Hetrick, Adam and Gioia, Michael. "Big Fish, Starring Norbert Leo Butz, Ends Broadway Run Dec. 29", Playbill.com, December 29, 2013
- "Susan Stroman Will Direct 'Bullets Over Broadway' Musical" The New York Times, 2012
- Gans, Andrew. "Complete Casting Announced for New Musical Little Dancer; Susan Stroman Directs at Kennedy Center", Playbill, August 26, 2014
- Gerard, Jeremy. "Pacific Overture: Hal Prince Sets Fall Japan Dates, NY Stars For Broadway Retrospective", deadline, June 17, 2015
- Loo, Bonny. "BWW Review: 'Prince Of Broadway' Conquers Audiences in Tokyo and Beyond" broadwayworld.com, October 30, 2015
- Clement, Olivia. " 'Prince of Broadway' Will Open on Broadway This Summer" Playbill, December 7, 2016
- "Double Feature" nycballet.com, retrieved January 5, 2010
- Press Release Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine"Pacific Northwest Ballet", February 6, 2009
- Gans, Andrew. "Susan Stroman Honored at Oscar Hammerstein Award Gala, Hosted by Matthew Broderick" Playbill, November 12, 2018