Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty are one of the most beloved songwriting duos of the last quarter century—so why does it come as a pleasant surprise to find that Ann Kittredge is dedicating an entire evening to their songs at Feinstein's/54 Below?
"That’s one of the things that attracted us to it! Kittredge says over the phone, a few days before her September 24 performance of Fancy Meeting You Here: An Evening of Ahrens & Flaherty. "We wanted to really challenge ourselves. There's different levels of how much they're known. Some people, they’re familiar with Ragtime, they heard that Once On This Island won a Tony Award last year and they’ve seen Seussical at their children's high school."
But the sheer, varied output of Ahrens and Flaherty—Ragtime, A Man of No Importance, Anastasia, Dessa Rose—makes crafting a musically cohesive evening of their oeuvre a daunting challenge. Not that Kittredge, music director Alex Rybeck, or director Andrea Marcovicchi let it slow them down.
Performing the show for the third time this year, Kittredge continues to be excited to share the music with audiences. "We celebrate it," she says. "You can’t listen to their music and go, 'Oh yeah, Stephen wrote that.' It’s just not possible. I don’t think they care a darn about being known, they just keep writing."
Of course they are known, particularly for the social justice thread that unites many of their shows. That receives a dedicated segment in the show, as does another segment that features some rewritten lyrics from Ahrens especially for the night. In addition, Ahrens and Flaherty have given Kittredge a trunk song with which even the most diehard of fans won't be familiar.
"It’s never been in a show, it’s never been intended to be in a show," Kittredge says gleefully. "I believe the only other person has sung it is Karen Akers."
Joining her at Feinstein's/54 Below will be Marcus Lovett (The Phantom of the Opera), and Kittedge once again looks forward to bringing to life the varied characters from the pen of Ahrens and Flaherty.
"It is such a perfect show for theatre people," she says. "Especially those who think they know Ahrens and Flaherty. And for those who don’t know them at all, they’re going to realize, 'Oh, I know that!' It’s an awakening."