Alan Menken

Last updated
Alan Menken
Alan Menken 2013 (cropped).jpg
Menken in 2013
Background information
Birth nameAlan Irwin Menken [1]
Born (1949-07-22) July 22, 1949 (age 70)
New York City, U.S.
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Arranger
  • conductor
  • songwriter
  • music director
  • record producer
Years active1972–present
Labels
Website Official website

Alan Irwin Menken [1] (born July 22, 1949) is an American music conductor, director, composer, songwriter and record producer. Menken is best known for his scores for films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. His scores for The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and Pocahontas (1995) have each won him two Academy Awards. He also composed the scores for Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Newsies (1992), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Hercules (1997), Home on the Range (2004), Enchanted (2007), Tangled (2010), and Sausage Party (2016), among others. He is also known for his work on musical theatre works for Broadway and elsewhere. Some of these are based on his Disney films, but other stage hits include Little Shop of Horrors (1982), A Christmas Carol (1994) and Sister Act (2009).

A music director, musical director, or director of music is the person responsible for the musical aspects of a performance, production, or organization, for example the artistic director and usually chief conductor of an orchestra or concert band, the director of music of a film, the director of music at a radio station, the person in charge of musical activities or the head of the music department in a school, the coordinator of the musical ensembles in a university, college, or institution, the head bandmaster of a military band, the head organist and choirmaster of a church, or an organist and master of the choristers.

Walt Disney Animation Studios Walt Disney Company animation studio

Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS), also referred to as Disney Animation, is an American animation studio that creates animated feature films, short films, and television specials for The Walt Disney Company. Founded on October 16, 1923, it is a division of Walt Disney Studios, and is headquartered at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. The studio has produced 57 feature films, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) to Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018).

<i>The Little Mermaid</i> (1989 film) 1989 American animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation

The Little Mermaid is a 1989 American animated musical romantic fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and Walt Disney Pictures. The 28th Disney animated feature film and first film in The Little Mermaid franchise, the film is loosely based on the Danish fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen. The film tells the story of a mermaid princess named Ariel who dreams of becoming human, after falling in love with a human prince named Eric. Written and directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, with music by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, and art direction by Michael Peraza Jr. and Donald A. Towns, the film features the voices of Jodi Benson, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Pat Carroll, Samuel E. Wright, Jason Marin, Kenneth Mars, Buddy Hackett, and René Auberjonois.

Contents

Menken has collaborated with such lyricists as Lynn Ahrens, Howard Ashman, Jack Feldman, Tim Rice, Glenn Slater, Stephen Schwartz and David Zippel. With eight Academy Award wins (four each for Best Score and Best Song), Menken is the second most prolific Oscar winner in the music categories after Alfred Newman, who has 9 Oscars. He has also won 11 Grammy Awards, a Tony Award and other honors.

Lynn Ahrens is an American writer and lyricist for the musical theatre, television and film. She has collaborated with Stephen Flaherty for many years. She won the Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award for the Broadway musical Ragtime. Together with Flaherty, they have written many musicals, including Lucky Stiff, My Favorite Year, Ragtime, Seussical, A Man of No Importance, Dessa Rose, The Glorious Ones, Rocky, Little Dancer and, recently on Broadway, Anastasia and Once on This Island.

Howard Ashman American playwright and lyricist

Howard Elliott Ashman was an American playwright and lyricist. He collaborated with Alan Menken on several works and is most widely known for several animated feature films for Disney, for which Ashman wrote the lyrics and Menken composed the music. Ashman and Menken began their collaboration with the musical God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1979), for which Ashman directed and wrote both book and lyrics. Their next musical, Little Shop of Horrors (1982) for which Ashman again directed and wrote both book and lyrics, became a long-running success and led to a 1986 feature film. The partnership's first Disney film was The Little Mermaid (1989), followed by Beauty and the Beast (1991). After his death, some of Ashman's songs were included in another Disney film, Aladdin (1992).

Jack Feldman is an American Tony Award-winning lyricist who has written songs for television, film, and Broadway. He has worked on many Disney movies ranging from Oliver & Company to The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, collaborating with Alan Menken on the songs for Newsies. He wrote the lyrics for Barry Manilow's Grammy Award–winning song "Copacabana" and recently won a Tony along with Alan Menken for the stage musical version of Newsies. Feldman grew up on Long Island.

Early life

Alan Irwin Menken was born on July 22, 1949, at French Hospital in New York City, to Judith and Norman Menken. His father was a boogie-woogie piano-playing dentist, and his mother was an actress, dancer and playwright. [2] [3] His family was Jewish. [4] Menken developed an interest in music at an early age, taking piano and violin lessons. He began to compose at an early age. [5] At age 9, at the New York Federation of Music Clubs Junior Composers Contest, his original composition "Bouree" was rated Superior and Excellent by the judges. [6]

French Hospital (Manhattan) former hospital in Manhattan, United States

French Hospital of New York, at 330 West 30th Street was a hospital established in 1881 and closed in 1977. The last building it occupied was built in 1928 by the Société Française de Bienfaisance. It was in the Chelsea neighborhood. At its opening, it was operated by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Its owner, the French Benevolent Society, merged with the Polyclinic Medical School and Health Center in 1969. The French and Polytechnic Medical School and Health Center closed May 13, 1977 for a lack of funding.

He attended New Rochelle High School in New Rochelle, New York, and graduated in 1967. Menken remembers: "I'd make up my own Bach fugues and Beethoven sonatas because I was bored with the piano and I didn't want to practice; so I'd go off on tangents". [7] He then enrolled at New York University. [8] He graduated with a degree in Musicology in 1971 from the university's Steinhardt School. Menken recalled: "First, I was pre-med. I thought I'd be a dentist like my dad. Finally, I got a degree in music, but I didn't care about musicology. It wasn't until I joined BMI Workshop ... under Lehman Engel, and walked into a room with other composers that I knew this was it." [7] Menken noted that "Before college, I was writing songs to further my dream of being the next Bob Dylan. A lot of guitar songs – I was composing on piano before that." [9] After college, he attended the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. [10]

New Rochelle High School

New Rochelle High School (NRHS) is a public high school in New Rochelle, New York, United States. It is part of the City School District of New Rochelle and is the City's sole public high school.

New York University private research university in New York, NY, United States

New York University (NYU) is a private research university based in New York City. Founded in 1831, NYU's historical campus is in Greenwich Village, Lower Manhattan. NYU also has degree-granting campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, and academic centers in Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Florence, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Sydney, Tel Aviv, and Washington, D.C.

Lehman Engel American conductor

A. Lehman Engel was an American composer and conductor of Broadway musicals, television and film.

Career

Early career

After graduating, Menken's plan was to become either a rock star or a recording artist. His interest in writing musicals increased when he joined the Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) Musical Theatre Workshop and was mentored by Lehman Engel. [10] From 1974 to 1978, he showcased various BMI workshop works, such as Midnight, Apartment House (lyric by Muriel Robinson), Conversations with Pierre, [10] Harry the Rat and Messiah on Mott Street (lyrics by David Zippel).[ citation needed ] According to Menken, during this period, he "worked as a ballet and modern dance accompanist, a musical director for club acts, a jingle writer, arranger, a songwriter for Sesame Street and a vocal coach. He performed his material at clubs like The Ballroom, Reno Sweeny and Tramps." [11] In 1976, John Wilson reported for The New York Times that members of Engel's BMI Workshop began performing as part of the "Broadway at the Ballroom" series: "The opening workshop program ... featured Maury Yeston and Alan Menken, both playing their piano accompaniment and singing songs they have written for potential musicals." [12] Wilson reviewed a performance at the Ballroom in 1977 where Menken accompanied a singer: "In the current cabaret world, a piano accompanist is no longer expected to merely play piano for a singer. More and more, pianists can be heard joining in vocally, harmonizing with the singer, creating a background of shouts and exclamations or even doing brief passages of solo singing." [13]

David Joel Zippel is an American musical theatre lyricist, director and producer.

A jingle is a short song or tune used in advertising and for other commercial uses. Jingles are a form of sound branding. A jingle contains one or more hooks and meaning that explicitly promote the product or service being advertised, usually through the use of one or more advertising slogans. Ad buyers use jingles in radio and television commercials; they can also be used in non-advertising contexts to establish or maintain a brand image. Many jingles are also created using snippets of popular songs, in which lyrics are modified to appropriately advertise the product or service.

Menken contributed material to revues like New York's Back in Town, Big Apple Country, The Present Tense (1977), [14] Real Life Funnies (Off-Broadway, 1981), [15] Diamonds (Off-Broadway, 1984), and Personals (Off-Off-Broadway, 1985). [16] His revue Patch, Patch, Patch ran at the West Bank Cafe in New York City in 1979 and featured Chip Zien. The New York Times reviewer, Mel Gussow, wrote: "The title song ... refers to a life's passage. According to Alan Menken ... after age 30 it is a downhill plunge." [17]

<i>Diamonds</i> (musical) 1980s musical revue about baseball

Diamonds is a musical revue about baseball. The book and music were created by many writers, composers, and lyricists. Among them were Ellen Fitzhugh, Roy Blount, Jr., and John Weidman (book); and Larry Grossman, Comden and Green, Howard Ashman, and Cy Coleman, music.

Jerome Herbert "Chip" Zien is an American actor. He is best known for playing the lead role of the Baker in the original Broadway production of Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim. He has appeared in all of the "Marvin Stories" musicals by William Finn: In Trousers, March of the Falsettos, Falsettoland and Falsettos. He played the role of Thénardier in the Broadway production of Les Misérables and Mark Rothenberg in the film United 93. He is also known for providing the voice of Howard in the film Howard the Duck.

Melvyn Hayes "Mel" Gussow was an American theater critic, movie critic, and author who wrote for The New York Times for 35 years.

Menken wrote several shows that were not produced, including Atina, Evil Queen of the Galaxy (1980), with lyrics by Steve Brown. He also wrote The Thorn with lyrics by Brown, which was commissioned by Divine in 1980. This was a parody of the film The Rose , but they could not raise the money to have it produced. [18] He collaborated with Howard Ashman in an uncompleted musical called Babe (c. 1981), [19] [20] with Tom Eyen in Kicks: The Showgirl Musical (1984), [21] and with David Rogers in The Dream in Royal Street (c. 1981), which was an adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream . [20] Menken contributed music for the film The Line (1980), directed by Robert J. Siegel. [22]

Breakthrough years

Menken finally achieved success as a composer when playwright Howard Ashman chose him and Engel to write the music for his musical adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater . The musical opened in 1979 at the WPA Theater [23] to excellent reviews [23] and modest box office. It transferred after several months to the Off-Broadway Entermedia Theater, where it ran for an additional six weeks. [24] [25] [26] [27]

Menken and Ashman wrote their next musical, Little Shop of Horrors , for a cast of only 9 performers, including a puppeteer. This musical is based on the 1960 black comedy film The Little Shop of Horrors . It opened at WPA Theater in 1982 to warm reviews. It moved to the Orpheum Theatre in the East Village, Manhattan, where it ran for five years. The musical set the box-office record for highest grossing Off-Broadway show of all time. It toured around the world, won theater awards and was adapted as a 1986 musical film starring Rick Moranis that earned Menken and Ashman their first Oscar nomination for the song "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space". [28] For his body of work in musical theatre, he was awarded the BMI Career Achievement Award in 1983.[ citation needed ]

In 1987, Menken and lyricist David Spencer's adaptation, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz , based on the 1959 novel of the same name, was produced in Philadelphia. After substantial re-writes, it was produced in 2015 in Montreal. [29] [30] In 1992, the WPA Theatre produced Menken's Weird Romance, also with lyrics by Spencer. [31] Menken's musical based on the Charles Dickens novella A Christmas Carol , with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and book by Mike Ockrent, debuted at Madison Square Garden's Paramount Theater in 1994. [32] The show proved successful and was an annual New York holiday event. [33]

Disney Renaissance and later films

On the strength of the success of Little Shop of Horrors, Menken and Ashman were hired by Walt Disney Studios to write the music for The Little Mermaid (1989). The challenge was to create an animated musical film of this Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale that could sit alongside the Disney films Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella . The Little Mermaid opened to critical and commercial success and signaled a new Disney era called the Disney Renaissance. [34] The film gave them their first Oscar win: Best Song for the song "Under the Sea". Menken also won the 1989 Oscar for Best Score. [8] [35]

Menken and Ashman's Beauty and the Beast garnered them three 1991 Oscar nominations for Best Song, winning for its title song. [35] Menken won another Oscar for Best Score. The two were working on Aladdin at the time of Ashman's death in 1991. Subsequently, Menken collaborated with Tim Rice to finish the songs for the film. The film won an Oscar in 1992 for Best Song: "A Whole New World". [35] Menken also won the Oscar for Best Score. Menken's live action musical film Newsies , with lyrics by Jack Feldman, was released in 1992. Three more animated musical films followed. Menken collaborated with Stephen Schwartz for Pocahontas , for which the two won two Oscars: Best Song and Best Musical or Comedy Score. In 1996, the same musical team created the songs, and Menken, the score, for The Hunchback of Notre Dame . In 1997, Menken reunited with his early collaborator, David Zippel, for his last film in the era, Hercules . [36]

Menken also wrote the music for the Michael J. Fox vehicle Life with Mikey (1993), [37] the holiday film Noel (2004) [38] and Mirror Mirror (2012). [39] His other film scores for Disney have included Home on the Range (2004), the Tim Allen remake of The Shaggy Dog (2006), Enchanted (2007) and Tangled (2010). In March 2017, Disney released a live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, directed by Bill Condon, with the songs from the 1991 film and new material by Menken and Rice. [40] Menken collaborated with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul on writing new songs for the 2019 live-action version of Aladdin, directed by Guy Ritchie. [41] He is also working on new music for a live-action film adaptation of The Little Mermaid with longtime The Little Mermaid fan Lin-Manuel Miranda, [42] whom Menken knew since the former's childhood, as Miranda went to the same school as Menken's niece. [43] Menken will also once again be working with Stephen Schwartz to write new songs for Disenchanted , the sequel to Enchanted, [44] and for a remake of The Hunchback of Notre Dame , which Menken will score. [45]

With eight Academy Awards (four each for best score and best song), only composer Alfred Newman (nine wins) and Walt Disney (22 wins) have received more Oscars than Menken. He is tied for third place with late costume designer Edith Head. He currently holds the record for the most wins for a living person.[ citation needed ] He was named a Disney Legend in 2001. [46]

Return to musical theatre

Menken debuted on Broadway with a musical theatre adaptation of Beauty and the Beast that opened in 1994 and ran for 13 years before closing in 2007. In 1997, he collaborated with lyricist Tim Rice on a musical, King David , based on the biblical character, which was performed in a concert version on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre. Little Shop of Horrors played on Broadway from 2003 to 2004. [47]

He next created the stage version of The Little Mermaid , which played on Broadway from 2008 to 2009 and for which he received a nomination for a Tony Award for Best Score. [47] Menken's stage adaptation of Sister Act premiered in London in 2009, and opened on Broadway in 2011. He was nominated for another Tony Award for Best Score. [48] Menken received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2010. [49] In December 2010, he was a guest on the NPR quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! . [50]

In 2012, Menken won a Tony Award for Best Score for his musical adaptation of Newsies , which ran until 2014. He also wrote the music for Leap of Faith , which had a brief run on Broadway in 2012. His stage adaptation of Aladdin opened on Broadway in 2014, earning him another Tony nomination for Best Score. [47] In 2013, he was a guest at the annual Junior Theatre Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, and was honored with the Junior Theater Festival Award. [51] He gave a concert there, including music that was cut from various productions, while talking about his creative process.[ citation needed ]

Menken's stage adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame played at La Jolla Playhouse, California, in 2014. [52] [53] The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz was revived in Montreal in 2015, [29] [30] and A Bronx Tale: The Musical , played at the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2016. [54]

Personal life

Menken met the ballet dancer Janis Roswick while working with the Downtown Ballet Company. They have been married since November 1972 and live in North Salem, New York. The couple have two daughters, Anna Menken and Nora Menken. [55]

Filmography

Film

YearTitle Director(s) Credited asRoleNotes
Composer Songwriter Score producer Actor
1972 A Dancer's Life William Richert NoNoNoYesHimself Documentary film
1986 Little Shop of Horrors Frank Oz NoYesNoNoSongs co-written with Howard Ashman
1988 Who Framed Roger Rabbit Robert Zemeckis NoYesNoNoSongwriter on "This Only Happens in the Movies" for the unproduced prequel.
1989 Polly Debbie Allen NoYesNoNoTelevision film
The Little Mermaid Ron Clements
John Musker
YesYesNoNoSongs co-written with Howard Ashman
1990 Rocky V John G. Avildsen NoYesNoNoSongwriter on "Measure of a Man", co-written with Elton John & Tim Rice
1991 Beauty and the Beast Gary Trousdale
Kirk Wise
YesYesNoNoSongs co-written with Howard Ashman
1992 Newsies Kenny Ortega NoYesNoNoSongs co-written with Jack Feldman
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York Christopher Columbus NoYesNoNoSongwriter on "My Christmas Tree", co-written with Jack Feldman
Aladdin Ron Clements
John Musker
YesYesNoNoSongs co-written with Howard Ashman & Tim Rice
1993 Life with Mikey James Lapine YesNoNoNo
1995 Pocahontas Mike Gabriel
Eric Goldberg
YesYesNoNoSongs co-written with Stephen Schwartz
1996 The Hunchback of Notre Dame Gary Trousdale
Kirk Wise
YesYesNoYesPhoebus
(singing voice)
(deleted scenes)
Songs co-written with Stephen Schwartz;
featured as vocalist on deleted songs "In a Place of Miracles" and "As Long as There's a Moon"
1997 Hercules Ron Clements
John Musker
YesYesNoNoSongs co-written with David Zippel
2004 Home on the Range Will Finn
John Sanford
YesYesNoNoSongs co-written with Glenn Slater
Noel Chazz Palminteri YesNoYesNo
A Christmas Carol Arthur Allan Seidelman YesNoNoNoTelevision film
2006 The Shaggy Dog Brian Robbins YesNoNoNo
2007 Enchanted Kevin Lima YesYesNoNoSongs co-written with Stephen Schwartz
2010 Tangled Byron Howard
Nathan Greno
YesYesYesNoSongs co-written with Glenn Slater
2011 Captain America: The First Avenger Joe Johnston NoYesNoNoSongwriter on "Star Spangled Man", co-written with David Zippel
Jock the Hero Dog Duncan MacNeillieNoYesNoNo
2012 Mirror Mirror Tarsem Singh YesNoNoNo
2016 Sausage Party Greg Tiernan
Conrad Vernon
YesYesNoNoCo-composer with Christopher Lennertz;
composer for "The Great Beyond," song co-written with Glenn Slater, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Aria for a CowNikitha Mannam
Amos Sussigan
NoYesNoNo Short film;
Co-songwriter with Howard Ashman [56]
2017 Beauty and the Beast Bill Condon YesYesNoNoOriginal songs co-written with Howard Ashman;
new songs co-written with Tim Rice
2018 Ralph Breaks the Internet Rich Moore
Phil Johnston
NoYesNoNoComposer for "In This Place";
composer for "A Place Called Slaughter Race", song co-written with Phil Johnston & Tom MacDougall
Holmes & Watson Etan Cohen NoYesNoNoComposer for "Strange Sensation," song co-written with Glenn Slater
2019 Aladdin Guy Ritchie YesYesNoNoOriginal songs co-written with Howard Ashman & Tim Rice;
new songs co-written with Pasek & Paul
TBA The Little Mermaid Rob Marshall YesYesNoNoOriginal songs co-written with Howard Ashman;
new songs co-written with Lin-Manuel Miranda
TBA Disenchanted Adam Shankman YesYesNoNoSongs co-written with Stephen Schwartz
TBA The Hunchback of Notre Dame [57] TBAYesYesTBATBA

Television

Musicals

Other

Upcoming projects

Awards

Alan Menken has earned eight Academy Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, eleven Grammy Awards, one Tony Award, one Drama Desk Award and two Outer Critics Awards. He was awarded as a Disney Legend in 2002 and was the recipient of a Richard Kirk Career Achievement Award in 1998, a Freddie G. Award for Musical Excellence in 2013, and The Oscar Hammerstein Award in 2013, among others. The American Film Institute included the title song from the film Beauty and the Beast , in the AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs. Five other songs from his Disney films were nominated:

In 2006, AFI listed its 25 greatest movie musicals, with Beauty and the Beast (1991) ranked 22nd. It is the only animated musical film on the list. Four of his other film musicals were also nominated: [64]

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"Topsy Turvy" is a song from Disney's 1996 animated feature The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The song is 5:36 minutes long and is performed by Clopin.

Howard Sings Ashman is a two-disc album compiled by PS Classics as part of their Songwriter Series. The album features Howard Ashman singing selections from his musicals, including God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1979), Little Shop of Horrors (1982), Smile (1986), The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992).

References

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Further reading