From Ragtime to A Man of No Importance, Ahrens & Flaherty Look Back on 10 Career-Defining Songs
March 13th, 2015
by Josh Ferri
Tony Award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty are the songwriting duo behind some of Broadway’s most beloved scores (Ragtime, Once on This Island, Seussical), not to mention Lucky Stiff, Dessa Rose, the film Anastasia and A Man of No Importance. On March 15, Christopher Fitzgerald, Marin Mazzie, Rose Hemingway, James Snyder & more will sing the score of the Irish-set, OCC-winning Best Musical A Man of No Importance at 54 Below. In anticipation of the concert event, BroadwayBox chats with Ahrens and Flaherty about 10 career-defining creations.
1. Song I can’t escape from (it’s everywhere!)
Stephen: I would say “Times Like This” from Lucky Stiff. It never fails—at any audition situation, within the first 10 people, somebody comes in with that song. It is wonderful because it’s the first song of ours that got repeated laughs from our very first show. It’s great to see that.
2. Song I wish I could have another crack at now:Lynn: We take cracks at all our songs again. We don't just let them sit there. We are constantly rewriting. The last incarnation of Ragtime for Broadway, we re-wrote some of the material in there. So I can’t say there’s one song. Stephen: What’s interesting in A Man of No Importance, we are presenting a cut song and that’s an example of a song we took another crack at. Now audiences are going to get to hear two different songs that were written for the same slot in the show.
3. Song that always brings me joy:
Stephen: “Waiting for Life to Begin” from Once On This Island. If you need a get up and go song, that's the one.
4. Song that almost wasn’t:
Lynn: Actually, “Waiting for Life.” We almost cut it. It didn't seem to work. I kept saying, ‘That song doesn't work, that song doesn't work.’ And we finally rewrote the bridge and it suddenly worked. It was the bridge that was the problem and I can’t even tell you why anymore, but that song was in danger of being cut.
5. Song from A Man of No Importance more people should know:
Lynn: “Love Who You Love.” It’s the theme of the whole show, and I wish everybody would sing it all the time. It’s a non-judgmental take on love.
6. Song I would use to describe our collaboration process:
In Unison: “Nice Fighting You.”
Lynn: Or “How Lucky You Are.”
7. Song that still moves me:
Stephen: I played a benefit at Joe’s Pub for GMHC, Marin Mazzie was there and we did “Back to Before” again, and it was exhilarating. She’s singing better than ever. It was thrilling. That song never ceases to exhilarate me.
Lynn: I think for me it’s “Make Them Hear You” because of the context it’s done in now. Gay men’s choruses sing it a lot, it was sung on the steps of The Supreme Court when the DOMA ruling came down, and I find that song cathartic in a weird way in this day and age.
8. Cast recording of ours is that is just perfection:
Stephen: The one I find really surprising, and like to listen to a lot, is the concept album for Ragtime. It contains songs and sequences that aren’t even in the show, and some of the songs we wrote the week we were recording it; it was being orchestrated on the plane going to Toronto, and there’s something about everyone being shot out of the cannon—you can hear them discovering the roles on the disc. I love the Broadway cast recording but there’s something exciting about the concept album.
Lynn: I’ll add a short PS. I love The Glorious Ones album. I don't know that a lot of people know that show, but it has some of the most beautiful songs we’ve ever written in a score and the performances on there are extraordinary. The album captures it in a real live way.
9. If I could hear any male performer wail “Streets of Dublin,” I’d choose:
Lynn: Oh Lordy. Well we’ve heard some of the best already. Steven Pasquale, Jason Danieley, and Colin Donnell is doing it here at 54 Below. Maybe the Three Mo’ Tenors. How about that?
10. Song I hope we are always remembered for:
Stephen: If someone were singing a song at my wake, I’d say “I Was Here” or “Something Beautiful.”
Lynn: I can’t answer that! Whatever saves the world—that would be my choice.
See 'A Man of No Importance' come to life at 54 Below on March 15.