Remembering My Favorite Year
The composing team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty currently have two big hits running on Broadway: a revival of their 1990 musical Once on This Island that won the 2018 Tony Award for Best Revival, and Anastasia, which features an augmented score adapted from their 1997 film score. They’ve had their revered hit Ragtime which garnered the duo a Tony Award for Best Score, their flop-turned-oft-performed Seussical, and they even managed to effectively (if not financially successful) adapt the film Rocky for the musical stage. They have been just as present in the Off-Broadway scene with terrific score for musicals such as Lucky Stiff, A Man of No Importance, The Glorious Ones, and Dessa Rose. Their in-the-works musical Little Dancer keeps inching its way toward Broadway. The team, however, wrote the score for another musical that featured a delightful score even though the show refused to work. That musical was the Lincoln Center-produced 1992 flop My Favorite Year.
My Favorite Year was a popular 1982 film with a screenplay by Norman Stenberg and Dennis Palumbo, and directed by Richard Benjamin. Featuring a cast that included Mark Linn-Baker, Peter O’Toole, Jessica Harper, Joseph Bologna and Lainie Kazan, the film was moderately successful, bringing in over 20 million dollars at the box office and O’Toole received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Inspired by the creative team who wrote for Sid Caesar’s weekly television variety program Your Show of Shows, My Favorite Yearloosely (and fictionally) draws its plot from a time that film star Errol Flynn was a guest on the program. Redubbed Alan Swann for the film, the story imagines was would happen when a Hollywood star turns up on the set of a TV show, both drunk and disorderly. Set in the 1950s, the story is seen through the eyes of young sketch writer named Benjy Stone who idolizes the star and must come to terms with the fact that Swann is not the ideal that he imagined.
For the musical version of My Favorite Year, Ahrens and Flaherty teamed with book writer Joseph Dougherty, who was generally faithful to film’s plot. The show was directed by Ron Lagomarsino and choreographed by Thommie Walsh. Among its impressive cast were Evan Pappas as Benjy, Tim Curry as Swann, Tom Mardirosian, Katie Finneran, Andrea Martin, Josh Mostel, and Lainie Kazan (reprising her film role as Benjy’s mom). Among the terrific songs in the musical’s score are the expansive opening “Twenty-Million People,” the revealing character song “Larger Than Life,” the hilarious “Duck Joke,” the exhilarating “Manhattan” and the breezy title song.
After a frustrating and troubled preview period full of revisions and rewrites, My Favorite Yearopened at Broadway’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre (Lincoln Center) on December 10, 1992. Critics were extremely divided on the piece, and though they found many things to recommend, My Favorite Year shuttered after 36 performances. Still, when Tony Award time came, the musical was not completely forgotten. Tim Curry received a nomination for Best Actor in a Musical, Lainie Kazan was nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, and Andrea Martin won the first of her two Tony Awards for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Sadly, Ahrens and Flaherty’s score was overlooked in a season where The Who’s Tommy and Kiss of the Spider Woman tied in that category.
It is rumored that Ahrens and Flaherty continue to tinker with the show with hopes that it can someday triumph in a Broadway revival.