Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty won the Tony Award, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards and received two Grammy nominations for their score of the Broadway musical "Ragtime." They also garnered two Academy Award nominations and two Golden Globe nominations for the songs and score of Twentieth Century Fox's animated feature film, "Anastasia" (Gold Record and Number One Song). They are co-creators of the Broadway musicals "Once On This Island" (eight Tony Award nominations, London’s Olivier Award for Best Musical) and "Seussical" (Grammy and Drama Desk nominations. One of the most frequently performed show in America).
Other Broadway and off-Broadway credits include "My Favorite Year," "A Man of No Importance" (Outer Critics Circle Award, Best Musical); "Dessa Rose" (winner, 2005 Audelco Award for Best Musical, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations); "Lucky Stiff" (Helen Hayes Award, Best Musical); "Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life," and "The Glorious Ones" (five Drama Desk nominations including Best Musical).
They were most recently represented on Broadway with the 2009 revival of "Ragtime."
Individually, Lynn Ahrens' credits include: co-book and lyrics for "A Christmas Carol" (ten years at Madison Square Garden); teleplay adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" (NBC/Hallmark Entertainment Special); mainstay songwriter/singer for "Schoolhouse Rock" and many other network shows. Emmy Award and four Emmy nominations.
Stephen Flaherty’s credits include: concert premieres at the Hollywood Bowl and Boston's Symphony Hall; commissions from the Guggenheim Museum, Carnegie Hall and Symphony Space; incidental music for Neil Simon's Proposals on Broadway; musical score for "Loving Repeating: A Musical Of Gertrude Stein" (Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Musical).
Lynn and Stephen are members of the Dramatists Guild of America, ASCAP, NARAS, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They co-chair the Dramatists Guild Fellows program for emerging writers.
On Monday, April 30, the NY Pops will be celebrating their 29th birthday with a gala entitled "Journey On," honoring Lynn and Stephen. The event begins at 7:00 PM with a concert at Carnegie Hall featuring a spectacular lineup of guest artists under the baton of Music Director Steven Reineke including Liz Callaway, LaChanze,Jason Danieley, Boyd Gaines, Kecia Lewis-Evans, Darlene Love, Rebecca Luker, Marin Mazzie,Tiler Peck, Andrew Rannells and more! The New York Pops will also be joined by Bad Habit and the Ronald McDonald House Chorus, Camp Broadway Kids and Judith Clurman’s Essential Voices USA. Click here for tickets! For more on the NY Pops click here and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!
1. Who or what inspired you to become songwriters?
Lynn: I've been writing tunes and setting my own lyrics to other people's tunes since I was four. I have an old tape recording of me setting my own words to "Frosty The Snowman" to prove it. I guess it's genetic.
Stephen: I've always been around music, studying piano at age 7, seeing my first musical at 12, and writing my first musical at 14. I've always been inspired by my teachers - both Bill Chrystal, my childhood piano teacher, and Ted White, my high school drama teacher, unlocked doors for me at a crucial time and encouraged me to write music and find my own voice.
2. How did your partnership begin?
Lynn: We met at the BMI Musical Theater Workshop.
Stephen: Lynn and I met at the BMI-Musical Theater Workshop in New York City, a "mixer for composers and lyricists" in the fall of 1982 - I was hot off the bus from the midwest - and began working together shortly after that.
2a. How has your partnership grown over the years? What do you feel is the reason you are still working together 20+ years later?
Lynn: We keep exploring new territory, and are by now very comfortable in our working relationship. We can comment on one another's work without getting huffy. It's all about the work.
Similar senses of humor, forgiveness and an enjoyment of each other's skills.
Stephen: We've developed both as individuals and as a team over the years and still have that same sense of fun and discovery together.
There are still many new shows for us to discover and write!
3. You are going to be musical honorees at the New York Pops 29th Birthday Gala on April 30th. What does this honor mean to you?
Lynn: I guess it means that we have created a body of work that's worth such a full evening. It's extremely gratifying and humbling.
Stephen: It is thrilling and humbling and will be exciting to hear that amazing orchestra playing our music. We've also invited some incredible Broadway singers to join us, many of them dear friends. I am so happy that Terrence McNally will be hosting and excited that my mom will be in attendance. She's only seen the outside of Carnegie Hall - what a great way to see the inside!
4. What excites you most about this upcoming evening?
Lynn: I'll be thrilled to hear our work done on such a large orchestral scale. And what an honor to be at the famed Carnegie Hall!
Stephen: Hearing the breadth of the material played by this orchestra. Sort of "This Is Your Life" but in musical technicolor!
5. How has this collaboration between you and the NY Pops had on your music? Has it brought it to a new level or added a new dimension to it?
Lynn: They're wonderful--full of great suggestions, extremely supportive and collaborative. We will hear some songs performed to new orchestrations.
Stephen: I've been lucky in that I've had the opportunity to work several times with the NY Pops over the past decade, the last time being the premiere of "American River Suite" at Carnegie Hall in 2009. It's always a special experience to work with them, to hear the music played so richly and with such detail in that great hall.
6. What is your favorite part of the creative process in writing a song? Where is your favorite place to write?
Lynn: Being together in the same room with Stephen and improvising a new song.
My desk. Pretty boring.
Stephen: Starting with a blank page with Lynn beside me and wondering "What If?"
I don't really have a favorite place. When I am "in the zone" and creating music, I am totally absorbed in the creative flow that I actually lose a sense of place - I could be doing it in the middle of the interstate or on the crosstown bus or dangling from a building - it wouldn't matter!
7. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to?
Lynn: Mozart, Bruce Springstein, Gershwin, Bernstein, any of the Beatles...
8. What have you learned about yourselves from being songwriters?
Lynn: That this is exactly who I am, and that I am perfectly happy doing nothing but this.
Stephen: That there are many stories to tell through music, many other lives to discover through the creation of characters. I get to be many other people in my one lifetime - how lucky is that?
9. What's the best advice you've ever received?
Lynn: Keep the cat out of the bedroom. But I can't bring myself to do it, unfortunately.
Stephen: Music is meant to be shared.
10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be?
Lynn: Beloved friends and family who've passed away. I'd like to spend a bit more time with them, and sometimes I do.
Stephen: I rarely remember my dreams, so it's sort of beside the point!
11. You are working on the musical "Rocky." What made you want to be involved with this project? What is your approach to translate this movie to the stage?
Lynn: It's the only movie I ever stood up and cheered for in a movie theater. The screenplay turned out to be a brilliant piece of writing, emotional, funny, powerful and perfect for adaptation. And of course it's a transcendent love story. It's been an absolute joy to work on, and no one is more surprised than I am!
Stay true to the humble characters, soak up the local color, and don't try to make it too grandiose musically.
Stephen: I re-read the script and had forgotten how beautiful, truthful, and touching it was - it is one of the great stories and really is a piece of street poetry. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania in the 70s and I know these people and know this world very well. It's an honor, being one of them, to bring this community to the stage.
There are moments of extreme muscularity and power alongside these small, human, fragile moments, and I've tried to incorporate that into the score. It's my first real rock score, which is exciting for me.
12. What is it like to be the award winning writers of such musicals as "Ragtime," "Seussical," and "Once on this Island?" What did mean to you when "Ragtime" was revived on Broadway for a second time? What does it mean to you when someone wants to do their own production of a show you collaborated on?
Lynn: I love getting letters from people who love the shows. It's a great feeling.
I loved seeing it again in a new incarnation, and also in a new time, politically. It had great resonance. We all did a little work on it , which I think made it even better and tighter.
As E.L. Doctorow quoted, "Art is a conversation through the ages." I love it when my work inspires someone to new thoughts.
Stephen: Working on the "Ragtime" revival at the Kennedy Center and then again on Broadway was an incredible experience. It was wonderful for Lynn, Terrence, and myself to have the opportunity to revisit the material, to re-explore it. That's one of the things I love about the theater - it is a living art form. So yes, I love seeing other people's takes on our shows. They bring their own ideas to it.
Lynn, Terrence, and I just saw a wonderful production of "A Man of No Importance" by the Gallery Players in Brooklyn, full of new life and new ideas.
I also greatly look forward to seeing new productions of "Once on This Island," directed by Thomas Kail, at Papermill Playhouse this May-June, as well as the exciting new Regents Park production of "Ragtime" this summer in London, directed by Tim Sheader. Both productions have bold, new ideas.
13. Favorite way to spend your day off?
Lynn: Long walk by the river or in Central Park, great restaurant, good movie, a fire and a book. All on the same day.
Stephen: Answering questionnaires? No. Seriously I'm taking a long, leisurely walk through Manhattan with my partner, Trevor Hardwick, with no final destination planned, which is what I'm going to do as soon as I finish this last question!
14. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose?
Lynn: Invisibility. So that I could surprise a few people.
Stephen: Flying! - and without the "Spiderman" wires!