Songwriters Ahrens and Flaherty celebrate 30 years

2013-09-30T00:00:00Z Songwriters Ahrens and Flaherty celebrate 30 yearsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
September 30, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The songwriting team of composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lynn Ahrens has lasted longer than many marriages — 30 years, a number that even shocks the duo.

"It's insane. I like to say we started at 7," Ahrens says, laughing.

"It's such a big number and it's so exciting," says Flaherty. "You either embrace it or you hide from it."

They've chosen to embrace it with a series of six concerts over three evenings which ended Saturday at the Broadway nightclub 54 Below featuring their songs sung by a rotating cast of Broadway stars including Stephanie J. Block, Jeremy Jordan, Annaleigh Ashford, Marin Mazzie, LaChanze and Brian Stokes Mitchell.

It's a chance to look back at a career that includes the Tony Award-winning musical "Ragtime," the Academy Award-nominated "Anastasia" and the celebrated shows "Once on This Island" and "Seussical."

But the duo isn't resting on any laurels. They've collaborated on the score for the upcoming Broadway musical "Rocky," starring Andy Karl and Margo Seibert, and "Little Dancer," a musical making its premiere at the Kennedy Center next year. One of their old shows, "Lucky Stiff," is being made into a movie directed by Christopher Ashley.

The Associated Press sat down with the talented pair to ask how they met, the way they approached "Rocky" and the secret to staying together.

And yes, they do finish each other's sentences.

AP: You met in 1982 at the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. How did you join forces?

Flaherty: Me being the strange person that I am, I waited for the last class assignment. I'm walking down the street and Lynn is walking away and I'm thinking, 'Schmuck, turn around.' I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck rise and I turned around and yelled, 'Do you want to write a song together?' And she said, 'OK.'

Ahrens: I was so shocked.

Flaherty: I had come out of the classical conservatory world where I would hide away in a little room and score everything and try to think important thoughts. And Lynn was much more of a free, almost improv kind of gal. We worked totally differently and I thought, 'This could be really good ...'

Ahrens: ... Or really bad.

Flaherty: Or really bad. But we owed it ourselves to try. We had so much fun writing that first song. Then we wrote the first show and then the next show and then the next show. And here we are, 30 years later.

AP: What's the secret to staying together?

Flaherty: I know how to deal with her now. (Laughs.)

Ahrens: We always got along really well and I think, as the years have passed, we've learned to be just more open and more relaxed about accepting that he might not like my lyric or I didn't like his melody. We've become more flexible.

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