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An Interview with Richard Maltby from Bristol Riverside Theatre's Closer Than Ever


Richard MaltbyOne could say that theatrically, Richard Maltby, Jr. almost does it all. This Tony, Grammy, Drama Desk winner is a theater director, a producer, lyricist and screenwriter. He teamed up with his Yale colleague/composer Davis Shire to turn out some outstanding stage magic. 

I recently had the joy of picking Mr. Maltby’s creative mind to ask him about his career. When approaching a theatrical project, I wondered how do you know which hat you will wear, a director, a producer, lyricist for any particular piece? 

Maltby shares, “When you direct you are creating the show onstage. Directing a musical involves all of your writing instincts. Some of the best musical directors have been play writers also and that is a great advantage for a production. Director/Choreographers also bring a sense of writing to a particular work as well, such a Jerome Robbins and Michael Bennett. Writing is really channeling the character that comes to life on stage.” 

Richard was born in Ripon, Wisconsin, the son of Virginia (née Hosegood) and Richard Maltby, Sr., a well-known orchestra leader. He has conceived and directed the only two musical revues to ever win the Tony Award for Best Musical: Ain't Misbehavin' (1978: Tony, N.Y. Drama Critics, Outer Critics, Drama Desk Awards, also Tony Award for Best Director) and Fosse (1999: Tony, Outer Critics, Drama Desk Awards).

He was director/co-lyricist for the American version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Song and Dance, (1986) starring Bernadette Peters. He was co-lyricist for Miss Saigon (Evening Standard Award 1990; Tony nomination: Best Score, 1991). 

Richard MaltbyHe also conceived and directed Ring Of Fire, The Johnny Cash Musical Show, (2006). He is co-bookwriter/lyricist for The Pirate Queen (2007). He was most recently represented on Broadway as the director of the new, original musical The Story of My Life by composer/lyricist Neil Bartram and book writer Brian Hill. That musical had a brief run at the Booth Theatre in February 2009. 

I wanted to know more about “Closer Than Ever” and Mr. Maltby was happy to oblige. 

“Over a period of time I began to keep a file of stories from people and their lives called “the Urban file”. Now and then David & I would pick out a story and work on it musically, sort of likportraitrait gallery of monologues of people’s lives one at a time at a certain point in their lives. “Starting Here, Starting Now” was more about young love. Now we were focused on the “older but wiser” “second time around” people. Suddenly we thought that this was actually a show. Each of these stories were likglimpseimps into someone’s heart revealing something honest and revealing about their life. We’ve been told that these songs really affect the audience and reach their hearts too. Perhaps because they ring true to them personally as well." 

“David & I work over the music so that the music itself says what it needs to say then I go back and try to find the words that exactly fits the music. If you use the exact rhythm of the music you will find the words to convey the thought.” 

Maltby & Shire write very dense and complex music with a surface of complete ease. The tunes are accessible, the ideas are too then suddenly you find yourself moved and touched right in the middle of the music. 

The plan is to revive and tour Closer Than Ever. The revival has just played in New York to rave reviews and will be enjoyed by the audience at the Bristol Riverside Theatre in Bristol, PA from May 4 to 23.


Photos: Richard Maltby, Jr and Richard Maltby, Jr & David Shire