Richard Maltby, Jr. (b. Ripon, WI, 6 October 1937) is a lyricist, director, book and screenplay writer, producer, creative consultant, and all-round theatrical idea-man. He is also a formidable award-winner: he conceived and directed the only two musical revues ever to win the Tony Award® for Best Musical: Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1978) and Fosse (1999).
Maltby’s father, Richard Eldridge Maltby, Sr., was a well-known music arranger (Benny Goodman’s “Six Flats Unfurnished”) who moved from Chicago to New York in 1945 – when young Richard was seven – to work with Paul Whiteman, etc. The elder Maltby arranged and conducted for the likes of Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan, Johnnie Ray, Vic Damone and Ethel Merman, achieved fame on his own in 1954 with such recordings as “The St. Louis Blues Mambo” and “The Man with the Golden Arm,” recorded multiple albums for Columbia and RCA, and for the next twenty years had a traveling dance band. Thus his son, growing up, was no stranger to show business.
As an undergraduate at Yale, Richard Maltby, Jr. collaborated with composer David Shire on two musicals. Their partnership continued after college, resulting in full scores for at least half a dozen shows – The Sap of Life was produced off-Broadway in 1961, and in the next decade, five of their songs were recorded by Barbra Streisand, including “Autumn,” the first song they wrote together for a show at Yale; and “Starting Here, Starting Now” featured prominently in Sreisand’s 1966 television special and companion album Color Me Barbra. In 1970 Shire departed for California to write music for films, and Maltby chose to stay on the east coast to pursue a career in the theatre as a writer/director.
In the fall of 1976 Maltby got a call from the Manhattan Theatre Club with the proposal that he stage a revue of songs he had written with David Shire. It was a welcome opportunity, for neither Maltby nor Shire was satisfied that their work had been adequately represented before the public. Shire was called back from Hollywood to arrange the songs, and “Theater Songs by Maltby and Shire” took its bow at the MTC in late 1976. It was such an unqualified success that it moved to the Barbarann Theater Restaurant in March 1977 under the title of Starting Here, Starting Now and ran for 120 performances. The original cast album was nominated for a Grammy Award®, and thirteen years later the show, and another cast album, were produced equally successfully in London.
In 1978, again at the instigation of the Manhattan Theatre Club, Maltby conceived, wrote additional lyrics for, and directed Ain’t Misbehavin’, the revue inspired by Fats Waller’s life, music and comedy, with a cast that included André DeShields, Ken Page and an unknown Nell Carter. After a smashing critical response at the MTC’s East-Side cabaret, the show moved instantly to Broadway where it ran until 1982 (1,604 performances) and won every award in the musical theatre, including the Tony Award® for Best Musical. It also won Tonys® for Maltby for Best Direction and for Carter for Best Featured Actress, and earned two more nominations as well. Ain’t Misbehavin’ won Drama Desk Awards for Carter and Ken Page, as well as the award for Outstanding Musical. The show had a London production in 1979, nominated for an Olivier Award for Musical of the Year; and its television broadcast, on NBC in 1982, won Emmys for its two stars (Nell Carter and André DeShields) and received six other nominations as well. In 1988 Ain’t Misbehavin’ returned to Broadway to pick up 176 more performances and a Tony® nomination for Best Revival.
Richard Maltby’s next venture was as lyricist and director, for the musical Baby (1983), written with long-time collaborator David Shire and book writer Sybille Pearson. It ran for 241 performances and received seven Tony® nominations and six Drama Desk nominations, including one of each for both Maltby and Shire, plus a Tony® nod for Maltby as director.
In 1986 Maltby was adapter, co-lyricist, and director of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance, which won star Bernadette Peters her first Tony Award®. He again earned a Tony® nomination for his direction.
Closer Than Ever (1989) was another off-Broadway Maltby/Shire revue (what they called a “bookless book musical”) that met with high praise, winning two Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Musical and Best Score. It enjoyed a healthy run of 312 performances at the Cherry Lane Theatre, where it opened after a tryout presentation at the Williamston Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.
Next, collaborating as lyricist with Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg on Miss Saigon in 1991, Richard Maltby had his most impressive success to date. It ran for nearly a decade, 4,092 performances, pulling in three Tony® wins and seven nominations, including one for Best Score, and four Drama Desk wins as well. Several years later Maltby again collaborated with Boublil and Schönberg on The Pirate Queen (2007), which ran for 85 performances.
In 1996 Maltby and Shire collaborated with bookwriter John Weidman on a new musical, Big, again receiving Drama Desk and Tony® nominations for their lyrics and music. This was followed in 1999 by Maltby’s next musical theatre success, a celebration of the life and work of choreographer Bob Fosse, simply titled Fosse. The show ran for 1,093 performances and received Best Musical awards from the Drama Desk, the Tonys®, and the Outer Critics Circle, and Maltby got both Tony® and Drama Desk nominations for Best Director.
Other recent projects and activities for Maltby have included directing The Story of My Life at the Goodspeed Opera House in 1998 and on Broadway in 2009, and in Chicago in 2010; Mask at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2007; and The 60s Project at the Goodspeed in 2006. For Stephen Sondheim’s 75th birthday in March 2005, Maltby produced and directed a cast of over 140 Broadway notables in a special benefit, “Children and Art” on Broadway. In 2007 he ventured into film with a screenplay for Miss Potter, starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan MacGregor. He was creative consultant for Bea Arthur on Broadway (2002) and also conceived and directed Ring of Fire, The Johnny Cash Musical Show (2006).
As a lyricist, again with David Shire and John Weidman, he wrote a new musical Take Flight, which had its world premiere in 2007 in London at the Menier Chocolate Factory, was produced in Japan in 2008, and had its American premiere in May 2010 in Princeton, NJ, at the McCarter Theatre.
Maltby has five children: Nicholas, David, Jordan, Emily and Charlotte. He is notorious for contributing devilish crossword puzzles to Harpers Magazine since 1976.
– RM, LEC