The veteran Broadway songwriting duo Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, authors of the new musical Anastasia, visited the Billboard on Broadway video series with stars Christy Altomare (Anya) and Derek Klena (Dmitry) to share new songs and their stories of how the 1997 20th Century Fox animated movie made its long journey from the past — to the stage.
Ahrens and Flaherty — whose score for the film and song “Journey to the Past” won Oscar nominations — reflected on first getting the ask to score the film. “It was a huge break for two kids from Broadway,” Ahrens says. “Ever since then, we’ve been yearning to get back to the same story… we wanted to explore it and find the richness and depth that we felt was there. In five songs in an animated movie…it’s hard to find the depth.” While those songs remain in the show, most of the score is new.
“In writing a new score, the most important thing is the first couple notes you write — it dictates the flavor and the color and the mood and the emotion of the picture and the stage piece,” Flaherty says. “The first song we wrote for Anastasia was ‘Once Upon a December,’ a very evocative Russian lullaby. It’s about a young woman trying to find her past.” Haunting as the song may be, Flaherty reveals with a laugh that he actually wrote it in the midst of an August heat wave, “sweating in [my] underwear on a piano bench!”
Reflecting on the movie’s now-cult status among kids of the ‘90s, Ahrens says she’s still proud of “the story of Anya herself, a really really powerful young woman…it’s a story that needs telling now for a number of reasons.”
Watch as stars Christy Altomare (Anya) and Derek Klena (Dmitry) perform three numbers from the show: “Once Upon a December,” “My Petersburg,” and “In a Crowd of Thousands.”
The American Theatre Wing’s 71st Annual Tony Awards will air live from Radio City Music Hall on the CBS Television Network on Sunday, June 11, 2017 (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/delayed PT). The Tony Awards, which honors theatre professionals for distinguished achievement on Broadway, has been broadcast on CBS since 1978. The Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. The nominations for the 2017 Tony Awards will be announced live on May 2, 2017, from New York City. For more information, visit TonyAwards.com and Facebook.com/TheTonyAwards and follow @TheTonyAwards on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.