They've had only five new scores on the Great White Way (so far), and they won a Tony, but they still haven't had that big breakout hit. They've had two beloved , if modest, hits with Once on this Island and Ragtime, two flops with Seussical and My Favorite Year, and the jury is still out on this season's Rocky, a bigger hit in Germany than here. And they've had modest success off-Broadway and regionally with shows like Lucky Stiff and Dessa Rose, and with the animated film (again, a modest hit) Anastacia. To celebrate their 30 years together, they put together a series of concerts at 54 Below, featuring some of the stage's biggest stars, singing a sampling of their songs, past, present and future. Listening to this terrific 2-CD set, Nice Fighting You, makes you realize that, despite not having a huge hit under their belt, they have quite a cache of amazing songs in a really astonishing variety of styles. And you will also realize that Ahrens and Flaherty belong in that list of great Broadway composing teams.
1. The hosts are terrific!
They are articulate and charming. Their patter is the perfect blend of humor, self-deprecation and "insider-y" gossip. And best of all, Ahrens and Flaherty's affection for their chosen profession and each other comes shining right through your ear buds!
2. The great selection of songs!
3. The cavalcade of Broadway stars!
The "cast list" here reads like who's who of current Broadway stars, including Kecia Lewis, Rebecca Luker, Stephanie J. Block and Mary Testa. Then there are the stars who have come back to sing the songs they created on Broadway and beyond, including LaChanze, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Bobby Steggert, Marin Mazzie (who also shows off some of the crazy she brings to her role in Bullets in an hilarious number called "Speaking French"), and the absolutely sweet Kevin Chamberlin, who recreates his Suessical numbers, "Alone in the Universe" and "Solla Sollew." (There are several others on this recording, too.)
The bottom line is this: If you are new to their work, or love their work, this CD is for you.