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Harvey Fierstein has been going around town joking that John Bucchino, the new-to-Broadway composer-lyricist making his debut this spring with “A Catered Affair,” never liked musical theater.

“I wish he’d stop saying that,” says Bucchino. “It’s not that I didn’t like it; I just didn’t know it.”

Bucchino’s songs have long been familiar to many legiters from the cabaret circuit. But even with his revue “It’s Only Life” getting periodic regional stints — and friends like Stephen Schwartz and Stephen Sondheim encouraging him — he wasn’t completely convinced musicals were his bag.

Not, at least, until “Catered Affair” came along. It was Fierstein who approached Bucchino about working on a tuner version of the 1950s Paddy Chayefsky tale, and it was pal Schwartz who helped persuade Bucchino to go for it. (Fierstein wrote the book for the adaptation and also plays a role in the show, which opened Thursday.)

“I think my life might very well be divided into before and after ‘A Catered Affair,'” he says. “I have no idea what comes next.”

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