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InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & More

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MoreToday we are kicking off BroadwayWorld's exclusive multi-part InDepth InterView series focusing on the New York Pops 29th Birthday Gala concert celebrating the music and musicals of Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty, JOURNEY ON, that will take place at Carnegie Hall on April 30 at 7 PM by talking to the lyricist half of the lauded Tony Award-winning songwriting team herself, the thoughtful and candid Lynn Ahrens. In a wide-ranging conversation covering many of her theatrical collaborations with Stephen Flaherty from their first musical, LUCKY STIFF, in the 1980s, to their Tony-winning success with RAGTIME in the 1990s, to their astounding slate of shows since - SEUSSICAL: THE MUSICAL, Dessa Rose and THE GLORIOUS ONES included - all the way up to 2012 and their new musical in pre-production in Germany, ROCKY, based on the iconic 1975 Oscar-winning Sylvester Stallone-starring boxing film. Ahrens also shares firsthand news on the new Ahrens & Flaherty musical based on the art and life of Degas and the upcoming feature film version of LUCKY STIFF, directed by Christopher Ashley, as well as reflects on her work for the stage, page and screen outside of her work with Flaherty - songs for SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK and songs for the hit indie musical film CAMP among them. Plus, Ahrens shares her enthusiasm for her many collaborators and the performers famous for interpreting her work as well as relates her excitement for the star-studded JOURNEY ON concert spectacular at Carnegie Hall. All of that and much, much more!

The New York Pops 29th Birthday Gala: JOURNEY ON will be presented on April 30 at 7 PM. More information is available here.

Boxers, Ballerinas & Back To Before

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MorePC: RAGTIME was such a seminal show for my generation - what an unforgettable evening that original production was. It was so huge - epic, really.

LA: Thank you. You know, RAGTIME was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences and I think that probably, in hindsight, less money should have been spent on the accoutrement of the show itself, but to have a production like that under your belt - with 50 actors onstage and an orchestra of 28 - was an amazing experience and of course we just both adore the show.

PC: It lives on.

LA: Yes - it's actually about to open at Regent's Park and, then, at the Shaw Festival. So, it's really having this amazing rebirth.

PC: The Regent's Park mounting will be an environmental production along the lines of their recent INTO THE WOODS, won't it?

LA: Yes, yes. I don't know what it's going to be like, but it's going to be interesting! We're both going to go over to see it.

PC: What is your opinion on the various ways to do the show - for instance, the first London production was very minimal, in stark contrast to the original Broadway production? Is it even done in black boxes?

LA: Oh, it is - I mean, it is done hundreds of times a year at colleges and in black boxes, too. Actually, I remember there was a production with 8 people in the cast - and the review for it was the best review for the show I ever read! [Laughs.]

PC: No way!

LA: It was! You know, I am really thrilled just to be able to hear it in Carnegie Hall - that will really be something; to hear it in that size hall with that great big orchestra of the NY Pops.

PC: The recent tour of RAGTIME was absolutely magnificent, I must say.

LA: Oh, it was - it was.

PC: Sarah, in particular, was absolutely unforgettable, I thought.

LA: Oh, Kenita Miller? She is a wonderful, amazing person. She's our Kenita - that's what we call her.

PC: I have always wanted to know: was it always the intention of the song to have a female chorus in "Back To Before" or was that a directorial conceit?

LA: That was always the intention of the song, pretty much. In fact, at one point, we were going to have onstage women - some kind of surreal vision of women in white.

PC: But, ultimately…

LA: Yeah. That didn't come to pass - it just didn't seem like a good idea after a while. But, it was about that dramatic impulse of depicting women all over America kind of waking up - that gave us justification for background vocals.

PC: And Mother is an archetype as all are the characters in RAGTIME, more or less - correct? Is that why they are named as they are as you see it?

LA: Well, they are named that way because of how they are in the novel - the only person who has a name who didn't in the book is the little boy; he's just called the Little Boy in the novel, but we named him Edgar. "Edgar, it's time for bed", or whatever - he's not called that in the novel. It's for E.L. Doctorow.

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MorePC: There is such a wealth of material available to Steven Reineke and the Pops for this gala concert - will there be any outside-the-box choices? "After The Storm" perhaps?

LA: You know, we had been talking about "After The Storm" but I think we ultimately decided that it didn't quite fit the program. There will be a couple of things that will be surprises - a few new ones that will be fun, I think. I think there will be things from shows people don't know as well as RAGTIME - for instance, ONCE ON THIS ISLAND; some of our smaller, quieter shows, too. We're really excited about that, in particular.

PC: What can you tell me about the new musical about Degas that you and Stephen are workshopping with Susan Stroman?

LA: Well, I can't tell you too much about it just yet, but, suffice it to say, it is beautiful and we are very, very, very excited to see it develop and we are developing it right now. That's all I can tell you right now, though! [Laughs.]

PC: 2012's answer to SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE? Was that show an influential piece to you in any way?

LA: Oh, my God, absolutely. You mean when I started writing? Oh, yeah. I mean, Stephen Sondheim is everyone's idol and he is certainly mine and so it was very influential to me. I remember bursting into tears in the first five minutes when I first saw it - and not necessarily because I was moved, but just because it was so good.

PC: What a memory.

LA: I just burst into tears - "This is the end all and be all!"

PC: What do you think of Andrew Lloyd Webber's work in the 80s - to cite another legendary theatre writer who has done this column in addition to Sondheim, and, now, you?

LA: Oh, I think his ideas are fantastic! You know, everybody has something to say about Andrew Lloyd Webber, but I am an admirer. I think that the huge palettes that he chooses to write on are just stunning - the ideas are really strong.

PC: Lloyd Webber just premiered LOVE NEVER DIES in movie theaters in the US - it seems Broadway isn't the end-all and be-all for theatre anymore. Of course, you have seen your own show catch on across the country after a short Broadway run - SEUSSICAL. What do you think of this new era for theatre?

LA: Don't ask me why, but that's how it is now. The truth of the matter is that, you know, if you look at somebody like Terrence McNally - who is hosting the Pops gala - he is a collaborator and a dear friend and an icon of the American theatre, and he often chooses to work out of town for a number of reasons. The fact is that the rest of the country is often much more hospitable to new, innovative work than New York is these days.

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MorePC: You and Stephen have done a lot of new work at Lincoln Center, of course.

LA: Yes, that's right - we have done a lot of shows at Lincoln Center. THE GLORIOUS ONES began at Pittsburgh Public. But, I guess you could say that we have been very lucky because most of our shows have started a few blocks from our front doors - that's not to say that that's the only way to do it, though.

PC: THE GLORIOUS ONES is one of your most underrated scores, I think - a truly enchanting experience.

LA: You know, it's funny, we have three shows that somebody once called our artisanal shows - you know, like little, handmade shows - and, I am so proud of THE GLORIOUS ONES. I just love it. And, I also love Dessa Rose and A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE.

PC: Only you two would write those shows.

LA: We were beaten over the head a bit for them, but, you know, they are just such gorgeous shows and I am so glad they are being done all over the place - they are just very, very special and very near and dear to our hearts.

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MorePC: Will the cast be performing material from any or all of those three shows at the JOURNEY ON concert?

LA: Yes. We will be doing some songs from those shows with some marvelous singers.

PC: Will LaChanze perhaps be doing anything from DESSA?

LA: Actually - believe it or not - no, she is not. There may be something from DESSA, though.

PC: And GLORIOUS ONES will be represented?

LA: Yes, I believe there will be something from that, but I can't tell you who will be doing it yet!

PC: What about SEUSSICAL?

LA: Yes. Kevin Chamberlin is one of our dear, dear friends and buddies and he will be performing something from SEUSSICAL.

PC: How do you look back on your experience with SEUSSICAL in general? Rosie O'Donnell and Aaron Carter have both done this column and both told me that they really enjoyed their time spent in the show.

LA: Well, I look back at that experience as sort of like the best and the worst of all possible experiences. [Laughs.]

PC: It was a tough time.

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MoreLA: Yeah - it was a terribly traumatic time; bringing the show to Broadway and then having it kicked off Broadway. But, subsequent to that, everything leading up to that Broadway experience - and I think everyone involved would agree - was so beautiful. The actors were amazing and we had such a great time - you know, laughter and tears everyday; it was stunning. Then, we arrived on Broadway and everything went wrong. And, after Broadway and after that all kind of died down, we took the show back into our own hands and made it what it should have been all along. And, now, it is the #1 or #2 most performed show in America every year.

PC: What a journey! What edification.

LA: Yeah - one year we were tied with MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM!

PC: Right up there with the Bard.

LA: Yeah, yeah - exactly! Even with all the Disney shows and everything else, we are always right up there. It's very, very gratifying and it makes you really proud to think, "You know what? I wrote a show that I believed in and it got beaten over the head and clobbered and called bad names and all kinds of bad things happened and a lot of people got hurt - including us - but, when all is said and done, the show survived." We just took it back and worked on it really hard and revised it and now it is alive and well. That's how I feel about the SEUSSICAL experience, in a nutshell.

PC: You have very ardent fans - especially for that show.

LA: I really had no idea! To be honest, I don't read anything - I just keep my blinders on and go forward. I just feel like if I start reading something I will never get any work done - some of it will hurt my feelings and some of it will make me feel good, but it would just make me crazy to follow it all.

PC: You and Stephen have written nine shows together that I know of - are there other ones you wrote together that never saw the light of day or haven't been produced yet?

LA: There are three, actually.

PC: What are they?

LA: One was an adaptation of a movie called BEDAZZLED - which is a Peter Cook and Dudley Moore movie.

PC: Not the Brendan Fraser one.

LA: No - that was a remake of the original and we were trying to adapt the original. That was many years ago - we never could get the rights to it, in the end.

PC: What else?

LA: We did another show that never got produced that we just never finished because we couldn't figure out how - it was with George C. Wolfe. He was great, but it just didn't come to fruition. So, two unproduced shows in the early 80s and then we got produced at Theatreworks USA for our very first show - a children's show that nobody really knows; it's just a little show about the story of THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES.

PC: Is that musical available to be produced by amateur groups?

LA: Yes. It gets done - absolutely. So, after that, we did LUCKY STIFF, which was our first Off-Broadway show, and, since then, we have had a show produced approximately every two years, which is pretty amazing.

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MorePC: Indeed it is. Plus, you wrote A CHRISTMAS CAROL with Alan Menken, that was done in New York for ten years every season. I happen to adore the recent film version, as well.

LA: Aww, thank you! Kelsey Grammar was great. You know, I wrote the screenplay for that, too.

PC: Of course. Ruthie Henshall is so superb in that film.

LA: Isn't she amazing?

PC: Jennifer Love Hewitt was great in it, as well.

LA: Yeah - she was really lovely in it, I thought.

PC: Ruthie told me when she did this column that it was sort of a crazy shoot over in Budapest.

LA: Yeah - we were all over in Budapest! It was hilarious. You know, we were singing next to a bust of Tesla - it was really fun. Alan, Michael Kosarin, Michael Starobin and I all went over and we did the tracks over there and it was really quite fun to do.

PC: How do you view reality singing competitions and how it affects casting in musicals these days? Has it changed people's perception of "good" singing?

LA: Well, you know, I think it's still separate from theatre - it's TV. I think it's fun, but I don't think it impacts on theatre as much as theatre is having an impact on television.

PC: I agree - look no further than GLEE and SMASH.

LA: In that sense, I think that theatre is being brought - an awareness of theatre is being brought - to a larger audience; and, that's great! Here we are, about to have the Carnegie Hall concert and it seats lots and lots - thousands; however many - but, a television show is seen by hundreds of thousands, if not millions. So, these new things are a way of bringing our artform to a larger audience, which is a really great thing.

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MorePC: GLEE has had such a positive impact on the perception of musicals culturally.

LA: Yeah - it's not so much about developing talent, but showcasing Broadway talent in a very nice way. Lea Michele from GLEE was our first Little Girl in RAGTIME, you know.

PC: What has it been like seeing her blossom into a big star?

LA: Oh, it's fabulous! I love her - what a dear person. She's a grown-up now, for sure - definitely a real grown-up! [Laughs.]

PC: ANASTASIA is another one of your much-beloved properties. Will Liz Callaway perhaps be singing anything from that at the JOURNEY ON concert?

LA: Oh, Liz is just so, so sweet.  Yes, she will be singing something from ANASTASIA - I think she is doing "Journey To The Past".

PC: Were you influential in Angela Lansbury being cast in the film given her Broadway pedigree?

LA: Well, we didn't get to weigh in a whole lot on casting - you know, it's usually the movie executives who are doing that - but, when they mentioned her to us, we jumped up and down and said, "Absolutely!" Of course, she's one of the great ladies of the theatre.

PC: What was your fondest memory of working with her?

LA: I'll never forget when we worked with her in the recording studio and she brought her own cup of tea.

PC: Priceless.

LA: Isn't that nice? She just brought her own tea bag and hot water. She's so great.

PC: What do you think about the possibility of future film versions for RAGTIME and ONCE ON THIS ISLAND? Both have been bandied about in potential movie musical discussions.

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MoreLA: Well, not RAGTIME right now, I don't think - to my knowledge - but ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is being talked about and LUCKY STIFF is actually in the process of being made.

PC: Who is the director of the film adaptation of LUCKY STIFF?

LA: Christopher Ashley will be directing and we love Chris so it will be great.

PC: Is it an independent film?

LA: Yes. Independent.

PC: Do you enjoy screenwriting and adapting your work for the screen?

LA: To tell you the truth, no! [Laughs.]

PC: Why so?

LA: I mean, I've enjoyed every one that I have written and I wouldn't say no to another one, but my goal is to write for the theatre - with a little fiction thrown in from time to time, maybe.

PC: Theatre is the central focus for you, though.

LA: Yeah - this is my form. Movies are a much different form. I mean, you can't perform a movie at Carnegie Hall!

PC: Your fiction career may not be known to some of the audience.

LA: Yeah - I do write fiction. I've been in a bunch of literary magazines with fictions and essays - NARRATIVES magazine is one of the ones I've been in a few times.

PC: Short fiction and songs seem to use somewhat similar skills, would you agree?

LA: They are very similar. They are both a very controlled form.

PC: Precise.

LA: Yes - that's exactly right. Precise, controlled and you have to use every work to full effect - particularly in a lyric, but also in short stories as well.

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MorePC: What was the first song you and Stephen ever wrote together?

LA: The first song we wrote together was for a BMI assignment - we met in the BMI workshop in 1983. They would pair people up to do assignments and we ended up doing the very last assignment of the year together, which was sort of our first date. [Laughs.]

PC: What was the song about?

LA: We wrote a song about two people placing personal ads in the VILLAGE VOICE. They were both singing about who they are and what they were looking for and they wrote it all in their personal ads in the VILLAGE VOICE. I can't remember the title, but that's what the song was about.

PC: Was Kander & Ebb's work an influence on you and Stephen? John Kander has done this column and I think everyone agrees that he is such a genius.

LA: Oh, I just love John to death. But, it's a funny thing, because I don't know if they are influences - I don't think we write anything like them, but their mastery and their guts and their passion and their versatility and all of that stuff is a complete inspiration to us. So, I guess, yes, you could say they are an influence, but I don't think we try to sound like them or anything like that.

PC: Your daringness and audaciousness in material selection says it all - commedia dell'arte to Dr. Seuss to RAGTIME to Degas and ROCKY!

LA: We're fools! Fools. [Big Laugh.]

PC: So risky.

LA: It's crazy! Crazy. What are we thinking? It's crazy.

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MorePC: The main way many contemporary composers make a living is through ringtones and iTunes sales - what do you think of that?

LA: Honestly, I have never given ringtones a thought - I know they exist and I may even be being paid for ones out there and I am not aware of it. I can't explain it, but there are just some things in this new world that we live in that I just don't pay attention to - you know, there are only so many hours in a day, so if I worry too much about ringtones, I'll never write another show. [Laughs.]

PC: Will a SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK Blu-ray box set happen anytime soon, as far as you know?

LA: I don't know the answer to that - I mean, they just did a new DVD and I wrote four new songs for it. I think it's used in schools and you can also buy it on Amazon - it's called SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK: EARTH. I really enjoyed doing that.

PC: You also contributed some fantastic songs to Todd Graff's CAMP that you wrote with CARRIE and FAME composer Michael Gore. What was it like having those done by Idina Menzel and also the cast of that great film?

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MoreLA: Oh, Michael is a dear guy - he is really talented. We only wrote two songs for CAMP, but it was a great experience. Actually, now that you have mentioned, it just suddenly occurred to me that there is a common theme - you know, CAMP, which is about musical theatre kids, and the Pops, which is doing all of this to raise money for education outreach programs. For this concert, they have kids playing in the orchestra and they have kids coming to the show to see it, too. I am so happy to be involved with those kinds of things, I have to say.

PC: And Darlene Love will be performing a song involving Ronald McDonald's Kids.

LA: Yes - exactly. Exactly. You know, all of that stuff - that, as well as SEUSSICAL and ONCE ON THIS ISLAND - sort of embraces this feeling of passing it on in some way. That always makes me really happy.

PC: Will "Come Down From The Tree" ever return to the ONCE ON THIS ISLAND score in any form?

LA: No, it will never be back in the show, unfortunately, but it has been recorded a few times.

PC: Perhaps most famously by Audra McDonald on her first solo album.

LA: Yeah - which is not any mean feat! We love that song and we love that it gets around. It won't be done at the concert unfortunately, but, you know, with these things, you bring them up and they fall out and you try to find a pacing and an order for everything.

PC: "I Eat" that you wrote for THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS she premiered is one of my favorite pieces of yours and Stephen's - what a shame it was never officially recorded and released.

LA: Oh, thank you. I think there is some talk of publishing that as a piece now, so, maybe it will get out there a little bit in that way. We have had some inquiries about if we wanted our piece to be a part of it and we said, "Of course." So, I think that that looks like it may happen and that would be great.

PC: I remember hearing about your inspiration for that piece.

LA: Yeah - I saw this image of an obese woman in a tabloid in the supermarket. I just saw this image and thought, "Oh, my." It seemed like a story to me - and, I actually wrote a short story based on that image as well which was published in Kenyon Review.

PC: What's its title?

LA: It is called "Babka". It's a bit of a strange one, but it's a very interesting short story, I think. But, that image certainly inspired some artwork - that short story and that song for THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS. You never know where inspiration will strike!

PC: We are so lucky that every full Ahrens & Flaherty score has been preserved and recorded on cast albums.

LA: Oh, aren't we lucky? We are the lucky ones. It's just amazing that we have that good fortune - we really are.

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MorePC: I have to say that I really enjoyed your new songs for Chita Rivera: A DANCER'S LIFE - she is such a force of nature, isn't she?

LA: Oh, she is! Wasn't she just fabulous?

PC: Divine. She is so sharp and perceptive, as well.

LA: Oh, I know! I have a big poster right on my wall and it says, [Chita Voice.] "Lynn, I love you madly!" scrawled across it.

PC: How fabulous - so Chita.

LA: Very Chita.

PC: So, the new material for that show was a joy to write?

LA: Oh, yeah - you know, the challenge of writing that one song was to write a great song into which all of the Kander & Ebb songs that she ever made famous were dropped. So, our song was like a wraparound for theirs and that was a… little daunting! [Laughs.]

PC: To say the least.

LA: We had to play around with musical structure and try and write something, but it worked out really, really well, I think - and she's amazing.

PC: How spot-on to have you and Stephen write the Kander & Ebb celebration sequence.

LA: Yeah, I know! I know.

PC: The theatrical universe is quite funny, isn't it?

LA: It is. It is.

PC: What can you tell me about ROCKY? Is Andy Karl your Rocky?

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MoreLA: You know, we haven't cast it yet because we are doing it in Germany first. You won't know anybody who is doing it in Germany and we haven't cast it in the United States yet. But, I will tell you, Andy has done two developments and we adore him, but, when it comes to New York, I am pretty sure that they will go through a casting process, so we can't say who is going to do it yet because we really don't know. [Pause.] I love Andy Karl to death and I think he is one of the most talented people working in the theatre and he is a real sort of undiscovered talent, but there is no confirmed casting yet.

PC: What is the status of the show right now?

LA: I can tell you that right now it is being translated into German and that is a whole other story for another column! [Laughs.]

PC: Sylvester Stallone has approved this adaptation, then?

LA: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. He gives us OKs every step along the way.

PC: Is he involved in the process?

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MoreLA: Oh, yeah. He comes to see what we are doing and he gives us notes and comments and thoughts - we respect him a lot and he is really smart. He has been very, very nice and supportive and has been quite thrilled with the work we have done.

PC: It's been a good ride so far, then?

LA: You know, it's been quite interesting and fun, actually.

PC: I heard him discuss ROCKY: THE MUSICAL in an interview and he spoke very favorably of the show as it now stands - he thinks it will be really momentous.

LA: [Laughs.] Oh, well - we will see! It's a little scary and it's just a crazy experience, but it's been really fun so far. You know, he has been really, really wonderful to us.

PC: Will you be using the famous Bill Conti theme from the film?

LA: Yes, we want to use it and we are using it.

PC: You can't deny the audience that thrill, it seems - GHOST: THE MUSICAL uses "Unchained Melody", as well, for instance.

LA: Yeah - there are just certain things you have to do. You know, every show that you are doing as an adaptation, if there is something iconic attached to it you have to honor it in some way because there are certain expectations that come with that property.

PC: Indeed.

LA: I could name a million other examples - like, The Addams Family had to put in the theme song. Again, people were screaming for it and once they put it in the audience was thrilled. There are certain things that, as songwriters, you want to have it be 100% all our work, but, in certain cases, there is something you have to give in to - like, if anybody did a musical of ALFIE, I don't think you could get away with not using that song.

PC: LaChanze is a great interpreter of your material who has appeared in a number of your shows and will be at JOURNEY ON. What can you tell me about your collaborations with her?

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MoreLA: Oh, my gosh! She's one of our babies - we call them our babies, even though, like in her case, she is married with kids and everything else. I remember she came in on an open call for ONCE ON THIS ISLAND and a star was born. We had never seen anything quite like her before.

PC: It's so wonderful that that the spectacular concert of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND was filmed, with proceeds going to BC/EFA.

LA: Yeah, it was - it was just fantastic. You know, LaChanze came back to do that a year after September 11, which was when she lost her husband. It was a triple-whammy of an emotional day.

PC: Will some of your other regulars be performing at the Carnegie Hall concert?

LA: Yes - Kecia Lewis Evans will also be singing, who was also in ONCE ON THIS ISLAND. She is such a stunning performer - she is to die for. You know, with all of this, it's such an honor - just everybody wanting to come back and sing our stuff. It's so great.

PC: Is there a performer who made a song of yours come alive in a whole new way for you at any point? You have worked with so many huge talents over the years.

LA: Oh, to be honest, I have had so many of them I can't name just one - you know, I think actors are a revelation; every time. They come up with stuff and you think, "Did I write that? Wow, that's good!" And you have no idea that you have written something that then somebody finds something in it for themselves and just knocks you out with what they do with it.

PC: Makes it sing, as it were.

LA: Yeah. Now that I am thinking about it, though, honestly, I think the best example was probably the first time I heard Marin Mazzie sing "Back To Before" - I just burst into tears.

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MorePC: What went through your head?

LA: Well, it wasn't about any one thing she said or did, it was about the beauty and the intensity of the way she did the song. I just sat there thinking, "It will never be sung better than this - ever."

PC: What a beautiful memory.

LA: Yeah - I think that that is the best example of what it is like hearing an actor sing something of yours for the very first time and how you react; I just burst into tears because it was perfect. Just perfect.

PC: Marin is a superlative interpreter of your material, as well, who will be at JOURNEY ON.

LA: Oh, she is such an icon of musical theatre - just stunning. Fabulous.

PC: Did you see her recently in CARRIE?

LA: Yes - and she was absolutely brilliant!

PC: What did you think of the show?

LA: You know, I saw the original and I didn't think it was good, but I saw this and I thought it actually was good. I thought that what they had done with it was a masterful reworking of the show - you know, everyone has quibbles and blah-blah-blah, but I really thought there was so much to admire in it.

PC: You and Stephen tinker a bit with all your shows continually, as well, it seems - as we spoke of earlier with SEUSSICAL.

LA: Oh, yeah - oh, yeah. Totally. We are still rewriting RAGTIME! [Laughs.]

PC: The writing ends, but the rewriting never does!

LA: They are doing a revival of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND at Papermill and we are doing some tweaks for that.

PC: Are you looking forward to that production? Is there any casting you can confirm?

LA: They are still in the midst of it, so I can't say officially because I don't know who is firmed up yet, but we are really looking forward to what they are going to do with it at the Papermill.

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MorePC: That show has provided so many opportunities for minorities to be cast, as well - there are not a lot of shows like that out there and you and Stephen have given us a few.

LA: I know. It's so amazing to me that we have been lucky enough to have had these casts in these shows.

PC: The JOURNEY ON concert will be an ideal way to showcase all you have achieved so far and what we can look forward to in the future.

LA: The Pops are so, so fabulous and Steven Reineke is so great. Actually, Stephen was commissioned by the Pops to do a piece for the Fourth Of July and it was a beautiful piece and it turned out really great. He has worked with Steven before, but I have not until this concert.

PC: You recently did a commission on your own celebrating the Kennedy Brothers, THE DREAM LIVES ON: A PORTRAIT OF THE KENNEDY BROTHERS - a remarkable piece starring Robert De Niro, among others.

LA: Oh, that was so amazing to get to do - I was right there with Robert De Niro and Morgan Freeman and Cherry Jones and Ed Harris!

PC: What a cast!

LA: It was so wild. It's them and then me - it's like: what's wrong with this picture? [Big Laugh.]

PC: "The Song I Sing" is another wonderful commission you did.

LA: Yes, that was a commission from another wonderful children's group - the Young People's Chorus of New York. We wrote that just for them and they do that piece all around. We love it and they are a phenomenal organization, as well.

PC: That song actually premiered at Carnegie Hall, did it not?

LA: Yes, it did - and that was with a thousand children singing it!

PC: Too bad you couldn't bring them all back for JOURNEY ON.

LA: Yeah, right? We can't fit them in! [Laughs.] Seriously, though, the kids were great and it is so, so wonderful to be back now in that same hall. For us, it's just very, very exciting to be there whenever we have the opportunity.

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & MorePC: Is there a recipe to the fabulous rapport in your relationship with Stephen or is it merely fate?

LA: It's just fate - it's just luck. You know, you find someone who you gel with creatively - I think it's just about changing and exploring new areas and just feeling free to try new things and succeed or fail together and not be too upset about it for too long.

PC: And outside projects keep you fresh, too.

LA: Yeah - now and then. That's true.

PC: It seems that this could be the high point of your career so far with everything coming up.

LA: Oh, that's too much pressure! [Laughs.] We are just keeping going along and plodding ahead with our focus on the shows.

PC: Well, it's certainly the right time to take a look back given what we have to look forward to with the Degas musical and ROCKY coming soon.

LA: Carnegie Hall, boxers and ballerinas! [Laughs.]

PC: JOURNEY ON is the ideal way to kick off the year of Ahrens & Flaherty!

LA: The New York Pops is 29 and so are we - someone just ran into me on the street and told me that - so, I guess it was meant to be! We will see.

PC: Perfect - as was this conversation today. Thank you so much for this, Lynn. Congratulations on JOURNEY ON and I can't wait to experience everything coming up.

LA: Thank you so much, Pat. This was marvelous. Bye bye.

InDepth InterView: Lynn Ahrens Talks NY Pops JOURNEY ON Gala, Plus RAGTIME, ROCKY & More

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From This Author Pat Cerasaro

Pat Cerasaro contributes exclusive scholarly columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Theatrical Throwback Thursdays, Flash Friday and Flash Special as well as additional special features, (read more...)

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