Maltby, Richard Jr., and David Shire

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Maltby, Richard Jr., and David Shire

Maltby, Richard Jr., and David Shire, writers of five decades of theatrical songs (f. 1958). Richard Maltby Jr., lyr. (b. Ripon, Wise, Oct. 6,1937); David Lee Shire, comp. (b. Buffalo, N.Y., July 3, 1937).

It seemed almost inevitable that Richard Maltby and David Shire would work together. Both were sons of bandleaders; both attended Yale, where they first collaborated in 1958 on an undergraduate musical version of Cyrano de Bergerac. After graduation, they staged their first professional production, The Sap of Life, produced Off-Broadway. When the show flopped, Shire went to L.A., where he started scoring for television and movies.

In 1977, Shire reteamed with Maltby for the Off-Broadway revue Starting Here, Starting Now. The show, consisting largely of songs from shows by the duo that didn’t make it originally, had a successful run. In 1978, Maltby had a solo success writing the book and some lyrics for the Broadway musical Ain’t Misbehaving. That same year, Shire’s adapted score to Saturday Night Fever won him a Grammy Award (which he shared with a cast of dozens) for Best Album. A year later, Shire competed against himself for the best song at the Oscars, winning for “It Goes Like It Goes” from Norma Rae. In 1983, the duo landed their first Broadway collaboration, Baby, which had a modestly profitable run of over half a year, and has since been produced over 250 times around the world. Maltby also directed and wrote lyrics for the Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance and adapted the libretto and lyrics for Miss Saigon into English.

In 1989, Maltby and Shire collaborated on yet another Off-Broadway revue, Closer Than Ever. Two years later, Maltby was back on Broadway again as the lyricist for the musical Nick and Nora. In 1996, he and Shire were tapped to write a musical version of the film Big, for which they were nominated for a best score Tony Award. In 1998, Shire was nominated for an Emmy for his score to the made-for-TV remake of Rear Window.

—Hank Bordowitz