Fynsworth Alley: David Shire

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

David ShireDavid Shire is composer of Starting Here, Starting Now, Closer Than Ever, Baby, and Big, as well as an Emmy and Oscar-winning film composer whose work includes Saturday Night Fever, Return To Oz and the recent television film These Old Broads. He is currently working with longtime collaborator Richard Maltby, Jr. on a new Broadway-bound show called Take Flight.

DL: Let’s start out talking about your days at Yale, and how you began working with Richard Maltby.

DS: When I went there, I knew I wanted to write shows, and so did he. He came from a prep school in one place, and I came from a prep school in another place. We were looking for collaborators to write what in those days were called Varsity Shows, to be produced by the Yale Dramat. A mutual friend introduced us in the freshman dining hall one day. He thought I was a hick from Buffalo, and I thought he was a theatre snob. We were both kind of right. We started writing together, and 40-plus years later, we still are. We wrote two shows at Yale which were produced by the Yale Dramat in rather elaborate productions. One of them was later done at Williamstown. And that’s how we met.

DL: Those shows at Yale helped launch your career and brought you some professional notice…

DS: A little bit. They didn’t really affect anything. We were trying to get further productions of the shows. Theatre people came up, and though they thought we were talented and promising, neither one of those shows went any further. Curiously enough, the people in the shows who we worked with at Yale were more valuable in terms of future work, even in films. The stage manager of one of the shows was John Badham, who I later scored a lot of TV movies for, and finally Saturday Night Fever, which was my biggest financial windfall. There were people like Dick Cavett in the show, and Austin Pendelton and Peter Hunt, who I’ve either worked with or stayed pretty close with through the years.

We pretty much had to get to New York. After we got the National Guard out of the way – the six month reserve program – we moved to New York and started writing an Off-Broadway show there which was produced about a year after we got there. That attracted professional notice. It was like a calling card, even though the show didn’t run that long. Continue reading