The last time I got to interview Tony award winner, two-time Oscar and Golden Globe nominee, and three-time Grammy nominee Lynn Ahrens was in 2012 when she and Stephen Flaherty were being honored by the New York Pops and getting into the ring with Rocky on Broadway! Now, Theatreworks USA is presenting a weekend family performance series which includes their musical Seussical, a revised one hour version which will be presented on Saturday, March 26 at The Kaye Playhouse at 11am (East 68th Street, between Park and Lexington Avenue). Click here for tickets!
1. It's so great to catch up with you! Last time we spoke you and Stephen were being honored by the New York Pops for their 29th Birthday Gala and gearing up for Rocky on Broadway. I loved Rocky, especially "Raining," "I'm Done," "Happiness," and "Keep On Standing." Looking back, what did you enjoy most about the show being on Broadway and what do you wish you had done differently, if anything? Thanks for the kind words, and for this article. Happy New Year to you! I loved the audience reaction every night. I’ve never seen anything quite like it—it was tumultuous and ecstatic. I loved the creative collaboration on that show, loved the cast, the Winter Garden crew and the musicians. It was a life experience I wouldn't trade for anything. Of course, there are always things I wish I had done differently on every show, but I’m afraid that would require late-night drinks!
2. Now, Theatreworks USA is presenting their new weekend series of shows and your show, Seussical, is part of it. How did this come to be? Theatreworks has been touring Seussical around the country over the past few years, ever since its successful off-Broadway reincarnation at the Lucille Lortel. Marcia Milgrom Dodge did a terrific job of creating a production that is imaginative, emotional and truly fun. That’s the production people will see at the Kaye. It’s completely engaging for every age.
3. This version of Seussical is re-focused to an hour long performance. As the creators of this show, what is it like to be approached with the idea of revising the show to an hour from it's original 2 1/2 hour production? How involved were you in making the show an hour-long? We loved the idea of revisiting and revising this particular show—we thought it was just what the Dr. (Seuss) would have ordered. The rewrite is ours—we don't usually let others revise our work, although we’re always open to their suggestions.
4. How do you feel this hour long production strengthens the show? It tells the story (of "Horton the Elephant" saving the "Whos") but without the digressions into other Seuss stories that the longer version takes. These digressions are wonderful fun, but this version is very effective and tight. It flies! By focusing on the generous and loyal "Horton," in some ways, I find it more emotional, too.
5. What do you like about working with Theatreworks USA? They produced our very first show, and we’ve been "part of the family" ever since. I love the way they continue to nurture emerging writers, and I think their productions for young people are first-rate. They prove that "a person’s a person no matter how small" in everything they do.
6. One of the songs from Seussical is "It's Possible." What is something in your life that you found to be possible that you didn't think was? I never thought I would be inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame but somehow it happened. It was an impossibly wonderful Christmas present out of the blue. Like the song goes…"anything’s possible."
7. Another song is "Alone in the Universe." When has there been a time you felt all alone? How did you get through that moment? I have to say that I’ve always felt very lucky to be connected to my friends, to my small but wonderful family, and to my husband. I relate to "Jojo" and "Horton’s" loneliness, or I wouldn't have been able to write that song. But I think it’s more out of empathy than specific experience.
8. If you could play any character in Seussical who would you play? "Gertrude McFuzz," without a doubt. I identify with that unglamorous, self-conscious, but nonetheless intrepid bird.
9. What's next for Ahrens and Flaherty? Upcoming is Anastasia, which premieres at Hartford Stage this spring, and some new developmental steps for Little Dancer.
10. On "Call Me Adam," I have a section called "One Percent Better" where through my own fitness regime, I am inspiring people to improve their life by One Percent everyday. If you could improve your life by One Percent Everyday, what would you improve? I would stop mulling lyrics and go to bed earlier!
Lynn Ahrens won Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards and received two Grammy nominations for Broadway’s Ragtime. For Twentieth Century Fox’s animated feature film Anastasia, she was nominated for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes. She wrote both book and lyrics for Once On This Island (Olivier Award, Best Musical; Tony nominations, Best Book and Score); Seussical (Grammy nomination); Lincoln Center Theater’s Dessa Rose and The Glorious Ones (both Drama Desk-nominated); Lucky Stiff; Little Dancer (Kennedy Center) and Madison Square Garden’s A Christmas Carol. Lyrics: My Favorite Year; Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life; A Man of No Importance (Outer Critics Circle Award, Best Musical); Rocky. Numerous film and television credits include A Christmas Carol (teleplay, NBC- TV); Camp (IFC Films); Lucky Stiff; Schoolhouse Rock (ABC-TV). Emmy Award and four nominations. Her writing has been nominated for Pushcart and Best American Essays. In 2014, she and longtime collaborator Stephen Flaherty received the Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement, and in 2015 they were inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. Council, Dramatists Guild of America; co-founder, Dramatists Guild Fellows Program. Lilly Award for Lyrics.