Lyricist Lynn Ahrens Explains Why She's Sticking By ANASTASIA
Ahrens, who has been writing musicals with composer Stephen Flaherty for more than 30 years, notes that whether the actors like it or not, they are there throughout the entire rehearsal process.
"We're there every minute of rehearsal, every minute of technical rehearsals, and then every night for previews until we open," she tells Rhapsody. "Even though people want us to leave, we don't!"
Anastasia, a new musical based on the 1997 animated film that earned her and Flaherty two Oscar nominations, opens next month. This version, however, is different from the film in that it features a brand new score and nearly 20 new songs.
Ahrens admits to worrying that the people who grew up with the film would not be happy with the changes. However, she was pleasantly surprised by the reactions she heard at the show's workshop production in Hartford, Connecticut.
"One of them said it so succinctly," Ahrens recalls. "She said, 'I grew up on this movie, and the musical grew up for me.'"
Ahrens and Flaherty were honored at a junior theater festival in January, where the moderator asked the audience of 5,800 students if they had performed Seussical.
"5,800 kids stood straight up with their arms in the air," says Ahrens. "And you realize that this thing we do goes out like ripples and it spreads. And if you put out good energy and things that make people think and have emotions, then it can only help the world in some way."
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Lynn Ahrens' writing spans the Broadway stage, feature film and network television. She won the Tony Award, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards and received two Grammy nominations as lyricist of the Broadway musical Ragtime; in the same year, she received two Academy Award nominations, two Golden Globe nominations and a Gold Record for Twentieth Century Fox's animated feature film Anastasia. She wrote book and lyrics for Seussical (Grammy nomination, one of the most performed shows in America); Once On This Island (London Olivier Award, Best Musical, Tony nominations for Best Book and Score); Lincoln Center Theater's The Glorious Ones (five Drama Desk nominations); Dessa Rose (Audelco Award, Best Musical, Outer Critics Circle nomination); A Christmas Carol (ten years at Madison Square Garden) and Lucky Stiff (Helen Hayes Award, Best Musical). She provided lyrics for My Favorite Year, A Man Of No Importance (Outer Critics Circle Award, Best Musical) and Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, as well as lyrics for the feature film Camp.
For television, she wrote the musical teleplay of A Christmas Carol (Hallmark Entertainment Special, NBC) and is a mainstay songwriter/ singer for the famed series Schoolhouse Rock (ABC-TV) and others. She has received the Emmy Award and four Emmy nominations.
Her short stories and essays have appeared nationally and have been nominated for the Best American Essays and Pushcart anthologies. She serves on the Dramatists Guild Council of America, co-chairs the Dramatists Guild Fellows Program, and is a member of AMPAS. 2008 marks her twenty-fifth year of collaboration with composer Stephen Flaherty.
Photo Credit: ioulex, Rhapsody Magazine for United