ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty Go "Back to Before"

By Seth Rudetsky
02 Apr 2013

I asked them about writing Ragtime and, if you don’t know, composing teams had to audition for that gig! Garth Drabinsky asked a slew of composer/lyricists to write him four songs based on a 65-page treatment of the show written by Terrence McNally. The teams recorded them, and he listened to them all without knowing who wrote what. Stephen and Lynn had 11 days to write and record them all! They wrote a song for Evelyn Nesbit that she sang to Younger Brother (the scene was later cut from the show), "Ragtime," "Gliding" and "Til We Reach That Day." They did full recordings of each one with Stephen's vocal arrangements, and he said that the harmony he wrote for “Til We Reach That Day” remained exactly the same when the show opened four years later! PS, he also added that his “secret weapon” on the recording was having the alto line sung by…Billy Porter! Having a guy sing that high added an urgency and sass to the harmony. If you’ve never heard Billy’s amazing voice, go see him in Kinky Boots and watch this deconstruction! Amazing!

We only got up to Ragtime in the Ahrens/Flaherty Chatterbox, so I’m going to bring them back next month to discuss the rest of their shows…including their current musical overseas…Rocky! You can watch an excerpt of their Chatterbox right here and see the entire thing (ending with their performance) at www.SethTV.com. And, watch my new Daily-Shout Out videos, which I’m posting every day!

Well, the Midtown March Medley might be over, but one of the shows is planning a transfer in a month! James’ play Unbroken Circle is slotted to start previews mid-May, which is super quick in the world of theatre. It’s exciting and stressful! We’re working with investors now and trying to get all the money together ASAP. Stay tuned for details and feel free to drop off a $10,000 check at the Chatterbox this week! Peace out!

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)