Celebrated Songwriter Alan Menken on Disney Movies, Musicals

With eight Oscars, 11 Grammys and a Tony Award, Alan Menken is one of the most celebrated songwriters and composers of the modern era.

The son of a piano-playing dentist and an actress/dancer, Menken took piano and violin lessons at an early age. He graduated from New York University in 1971 with a degree in musicology and hoped to become a rock songwriter or jingle writer.

An early success was his 1979 musical adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.” He worked on this with the late playwright/lyricist Howard Ashman. Menken and Ashman later teamed up on “Little Shop of Horrors,” attracting the attention of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

With Ashman he also wrote “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and much of “Aladdin.” Ashman died of complications from AIDs in 1991 at the age of 40 and never saw “Beauty and the Beast” nor completed “Aladdin.”

Menken has also written music for and collaborated on “Pocahontas,” “Newsies,” “Hercules” and “Home on the Range.” More recent films include “Enchanted” and Seth Rogen’s “Sausage Party.”

He also wrote new music for the live-action film “Aladdin” with Will Smith, which is scheduled for release on May 24.

In advance of his one-man show Saturday at the Auditorium Theatre, Menken joins us to tell stories and sing songs from his astounding career in Hollywood and on Broadway.

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