BWW Feature: Legendary Alan Menken Flies Into Melbourne on a Magic Carpet for the Opening of ALADDIN at Her Majesty's Theatre
Do dreams come true, or does truth become a dream? I certainly didn't purposely pursue the opportunity to meet one of the geniuses behind one of my all-time favourite films, but by living how important that story is to me, the opportunity to sit practically next to Alan Menken as he played and chatted his way through a sparking career composing music for theatre and film kind of fell into my lap. Readers do forgive me, as it's not necessarily cochre to discuss these things without the professional veil of music theatre journalism between us, but because I'm in an excellent mood, I'm willing to give you a direct connection to the buzz that's still vibing as I write this. A Beauty and the Beast obsession is a big responsibility after all.
You might be forgiven not having heard of Alan Menken, but you have definitely heard him through his work. He is of course the composer of Disney classics Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, as well as stage sensations Little Shop of Horrors, Newsies and the recently premiered A Bronx Tale. Get a load of his career medley if you need a memory jog.
Aladdin holds a particular emotional resonance for Menken, as it was amidst working on the music for the Disney feature that his lyrical partner Howard Ashman died, leaving a great deal of the work to be picked up by Tim Rice once Disney slashed some of the story components and much of the songs co-written by Ashman with them. When the musical was adapted, Menken saw his chance to revive these lost works in collaboration with Chad Beguelin.
But reinvention does not always hold the same excitement for Menken, who reported he will next be "blasting into the Aladdin movie". On these updates, "I find the protecting the legacy to be a little daunting sometimes. I don't mind it being reinvented, I need to understand where I fit into that. It's always a challenge figuring out what new you're going to bring to it". He also let us know in regards to the whispers of a Little Mermaid revival, "we haven't started that yet, I imagine there will [be new songs] working with Lin Manuel Miranda".
Although our time with him was swift, Menken did have some gems of advice for Aussies pursuing an industry career, a dream of creative success. "The truth is, you should be doing with your life the thing you do to get away from the thing you think you should be doing, you should be doing some version of that if you can...know that success may or may not come, and try to have it not matter, just keep creating new, keep creating new...it's the image of digging for gold...you'd better enjoy digging!".