Stephen Flaherty

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Stephen Flaherty
Born (1960-09-18) September 18, 1960 (age 55)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation Composer
Years active 1982-present

Stephen Flaherty (born September 18, 1960) is an American composer of musical theatre. He works most often in collaboration with the lyricist/bookwriter Lynn Ahrens. They are best known for writing the Broadway musicals Once on This Island, which was nominated for eight Tony Awards, Seussical , which was nominated for the Grammy Award and Ragtime, which was nominated for twelve Tony Awards and won Best Original Score. Flaherty was also nominated for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards with Lynn Ahrens for his songs and song score for the animated film musical Anastasia.


Flaherty was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He began studying piano at the age of seven. When he was twelve he knew he wanted to write musicals and by age fourteen he had already composed his first musical score. He attended South Hills Catholic High School[1] in Pittsburgh and later studied musical composition and piano at University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, graduating in 1982. He did additional graduate studies in Musical Theater at New York University.[2][3]


As a college student, Flaherty played ragtime piano in a dance band.[4] This early job would serve Flaherty well later in life when he had the opportunity to compose the score for the Broadway musical Ragtime.

He moved to New York City in 1982 and joined the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop, founded by music director Lehman Engel, where he met Lynn Ahrens, who was to become his longtime collaborator.[2][5] He also studied Musical Theater in the graduate program at New York University during this time, where his teachers included Richard Maltby, Jr. and Arthur Laurents, among others.[citation needed] The first Ahrens and Flaherty collaboration that was produced was a children's show, The Emperor's New Clothes, for TheatreWorks USA in 1985.[6][7] Their next produced musical was Lucky Stiff produced Off-Broadway in 1989, and their first Broadway musical was Once on This Island in 1990.[5][8] In 1992, Flaherty and Ahrens were signed by Disney to write "Song of the Sea", a coming of age story about a whale.[9] Flaherty has since written seven more full-length musicals, mostly in collaboration with Ms. Ahrens, all of which have been produced. The critically acclaimed revival of Ragtime ran on Brpadway in 2009.

His and Frank Galati's musical about Gertrude Stein, Loving Repeating: A Musical of Gertrude Stein, opened on January 21, 2011 at International City Theatre, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, California.[10] This "chamber-scale musical," premiered in Chicago in 2006, in a co-production of About Face Theatre and the Museum of Contemporary Art.[11] The musical was initially titled A Long Gay Book, and had its premiere at Northwestern University in May 2003.[12]

Flaherty also writes for film and the concert hall. He was nominated for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards for his first film, Twentieth Century Fox's animated Anastasia (1997). He also scored and wrote the songs for its animated sequel, Bartok The Magnificent. His most recent original film score was for the documentary After the Storm, which follows a group of teenagers as they perform Ahrens and Flaherty's Once On This Island in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina.

For the concert hall Flaherty wrote the music for the "American River Suite", with lyrics by Bill Schermerhorn and commissioned by Macy's. The piece was premiered in April 2009 at Carnegie Hall by the New York Pops and sung by Idina Menzel, Anika Noni Rose, and the children’s chorus from the Choir Academy of Harlem. It was broadcast nationally on the Fourth of July of that same year.[13]

Flaherty and Ahrens have written a dance musical, Little Dancer, with direction and choreography by Susan Stroman, and the book by Peter Parnell, about a ballerina and Edgar Degas. The musical had a reading in 2010 at Lincoln Center Theater[14] and a developmental lab production in June 2012.[15] Little Dancer premiered at the Kennedy Center, Eisenhower Theater in October 2014 and closed on November 30, 2014. The cast starred Rebecca Luker, Boyd Gaines and Tiler Peck.[16] The musical is described: "Inspired by true events, the work focuses on the relationship between a young ballerina and 19th century French painter and sculptor Edgar Degas" and is set in the Paris Opera Ballet.[14]

Ahrens and Flaherty teamed up again to write a musical version of the film Rocky, titled Rocky the Musical. The show premiered in Hamburg, Germany in October 2012. The musical has a book by Thomas Meehan.[17][18] Rocky the Musical premiered on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on February 11, 2014 (previews), officially opening on March 13, 2014. The musical is directed by Alex Timbers, with boxing choreography by Steven Hoggett and choreography by Kelly Devine. The former occupant of the Winter Garden Theatre, the musical Mamma Mia!, transferred to the Broadhurst Theatre in late 2013.[19]

He has written the music for a new "dance-theatre musical", In Your Arms, which premiered at the Old Globe Theatre, San Diego, California, on September 16, 2015 in previews, officially on September 24.[20] The show consists of 10 vignettes, written by Douglas Carter Beane, Nilo Cruz, Christopher Durang, Carrie Fisher, David Henry Hwang, Rajiv Joseph, Terrence McNally, Marsha Norman, Lynn Nottage and Alfred Uhry. Lynn Ahrens wrote the lyrics for the title song. Directed and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, the show stars Donna McKechnie and George Chakiris. The musical had a staged workshop at the 2014 New York Stage and Film & Vassar’s Powerhouse Theater at Vassar College.[21][22][23]

He has received several commissions from Carnegie Hall, the Guggenheim Museum and the Boston Pops Orchestra, among others.[24]



Incidental music
  • "I Eat", contribution to The Seven Deadly Sins: A Song Cycle for Audra McDonald, performed on June 2, 2004[30]
Film scores

Awards and nominations[edit]


List of awards and nominations
Year Award Category Result Title
1991 Tony Award Best Original Score Nominated Once on This Island
1995 Olivier Award Best New Musical Won
1998 Academy Award Best Original Song Nominated Anastasia
Best Original Score Nominated
Golden Globe Best Original Song Nominated
Tony Award Best Original Score Won Ragtime
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music Won
2001 Nominated Seussical
2003 Nominated A Man of No Importance
2004 Olivier Award Best New Musical Nominated Ragtime
2005 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music Nominated Dessa Rose
Joseph Jefferson Award Best New Musical Won Loving Repeating: A Musical of Gertrude Stein
2008 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music Nominated The Glorious Ones
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical Nominated
Lucille Lortel Award Outstanding Revivial Nominated Seussical
2010 Tony Award Best Revival of a Musical Nominated Ragtime


  1. ^ "2009 Seton-La Salle Catholic High School Hall Of Fame, see 1991" Seton-La Salle Catholic High School, accessed August 30, 2011
  2. ^ a b Biography, accessed January 31, 2010
  3. ^ Bryer, Jackson and Davison, Richard. The Art of the American Musical: Conversations With the Creators (2005). Rutgers University Press, ISBN 0-8135-3613-8, p.1
  4. ^ Rohter, Larry."Finding New Meaning in a Pageant of Dreams"The New York Times, November 4, 2009
  5. ^ a b Bixby, Suzanne."A Conversation with Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty" (Regional, Boston), 2003, accessed August 30, 2011
  6. ^ "'The Emperor's New Clothes' listing", accessed January 31, 2010
  7. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Ahrens & Flaherty Double Bill of Musicals Pairs Lorax and Emperor's New Clothes", June 1, 2007
  8. ^ "About Stephen Flaherty", accessed January 31, 2010
  9. ^ "FILM; For Alan Menken, A Partnership Ends But the Song Plays On - New York Times". 1992-03-15. Retrieved 2014-07-04. 
  10. ^ Gans, Andrew."Stephen Flaherty's 'Loving Repeating' Opens in West Coast Debut Jan. 21", January 21, 2011
  11. ^ a b c Jones, Kenneth. "'Loving Repeating", a Gertrude Stein Chamber Musical by Galati & Flaherty, Premieres" Playbill, February 14, 2006
  12. ^ a b Jones, Kenneth. "Together Again, Galati and Flaherty Conjure Gertrude Stein in New Musical, 'A Long Gay Book'" Playbill, April 16, 2003
  13. ^ Fox, Jena Tesse."Stephen Flaherty: Rolling on the River", April 25, 2009
  14. ^ a b Hetrick, Adam. "EXCLUSIVE: Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty Team with Susan Stroman for New Dance Musical", February 25, 2011
  15. ^ Sheward, David. "Broadway Shuffle", May 4, 2012
  16. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Ahrens and Flaherty's Degas-Inspired Musical 'Little Dancer' Ends Kennedy Center Run" Playbill, November 30, 2014
  17. ^ Jones, Kenneth. " 'Rocky the Musical' Makes World Premiere in Germany Nov. 18; American Drew Sarich Stars", November 18, 2012
  18. ^ Orlando, Nick. "INTERVIEW: Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty Continue to Journey On", April 23, 2012
  19. ^ Hetrick, Adam. " 'Rocky the Musical' Sets Broadway Opening Night at the Winter Garden Theatre", August 26, 2013
  20. ^ Viagas, Robert. "The Verdict: Critics Review 'In Your Arms', With Donna McKechnie, at Old Globe" Playbill, September 28, 2015
  21. ^ Hetrick, Adam and Viagas, Robert. "Stephen Flaherty Pairs With 10 Librettists for Dance Musical 'In Your Arms', Premiering Tonight" Playbill, September 16, 2015
  22. ^ "Press Release 'In Your Arms'", accessed September 16, 2015
  23. ^ Hetrick, Adam and Viagas, Robert. "Dance Musical 'In Your Arms', With Donna McKechnie, George Chakiris, Ryan Steele and More, Opens Tonight" Playbill, September 24, 2015
  24. ^ a b Biography, Stephen Flaherty (as of December, 2007), accessed January 31, 2010
  25. ^ a b "Internet Broadway database listing, Stephen Flaherty", accessed January 31, 2010
  26. ^ a b "Internet Movie Database listing, Stephen Flaherty", accessed January 31, 2010
  27. ^ a b "Flaherty listing, Off-Broadway", accessed January 31, 2010
  28. ^ Brantley, Ben. "You Just Can't Keep a Good Broadway Diva Down" The New York Times, December 12, 2005
  29. ^ Sommer, Elyse.Review, 'Proposals', November 12, 1997
  30. ^ Gans, Andrew."Audra McDonald Premieres The Seven Deadly Sins June 2 at Zankel Hall", June 2, 2004

External links[edit]