Beauty and the Beast – Alan Menken Easy Piano Solo arr. sheet music
Alan MENKEN, musician
Born on July 22, 1949, in New York, in a Jewish family, he showed a special inclination for music. He studied piano and violin. He entered the University of New York to study medicine, since his father, his paternal grandfather and 3 of his uncles were dentists, so he seemed destined to be one more “tooth puller”, but luckily for us, he soon decided to channel his studies towards music and worked in clubs, accompanying artists on the piano and composing commercial jingles.
His family was very fond of musicals. Menken confessed: “We used to wait for my father to sit at the piano and while he played, we would sing. My house was filled with the music of Rodgers & Hart brothers Gershwin and all the great Broadway composers. From a very young age I discovered the power of the musical with ” My Fair Lady”, “Fiorello” , or ” The Sound of Music “.
After finishing his studies at the University of New York, he worked with the director of the Musical Theater Workshop and in turn attended ballet classes to accompany the practicing dancers on the piano, and it was where he met Janis, his wife, with whom he has two daughters.
His goal in music was to become a singer-songwriter like his admirers Billy Joel, Elton John or James Taylor and although musical theater was not in his plans, to please his parents he went to an audition convened by BMI and there among musicians, lyricists and librettists, he realized the possibilities of writing for characters, adapting stories and decided to direct his sights towards musical theater.
In 1979 Howard Ashman, artistic director of the small WPA Theatre, was looking for a composer to work with on a musical called “ God bless you, Mr. Rosewater ” and it was Lehman Engel, director of the BMI where Menken worked, who recommended him to Ashman. , giving rise to a collaboration that would achieve recognition and triumphs, unthinkable at the time.
In 1982 Menken & Ashman premiered their musical “Little Shop of Horrors” , receiving very good reviews. In the musical, one of the main characters is a dentist, and he has a hilarious number, perhaps a nod to the profession from which Menken escaped.
David Geffen bought the rights to take it to the cinema and Menken wrote a new song for the film “Mean Green Mother from outer space”, to compete for the 1986 Oscars for best original song and although it was nominated, it did not win.
After some previews of the film, with the children scared by the outcome with the plants taking over the world, the producer forced to shoot a new “happy ending” and re-released it again. We would have to wait until 2003 to see a revival of the musical on Broadway with its original ending.
An oversight by an employee of the production company caused the censored ending to be included on the DVD as an extra. After finding out, Geffen ordered all copies to be withdrawn from the market, turning that edition into a collector’s item on eBay, reaching scandalous figures, until finally the appearance of the film on Blu-ray ended the business of some by including the original ending.
In 1983 Menken received the BMI Career Achievement Award for his work in pursuit of musical theater for his plays ” Little Shop of Horrors “ , ” God Bless You Mr. Rosewater” , ” Real Life Funnies” , ” Atina: Evil Queen of the Galaxy” or “Patch, Patch, Patch”.
Later in 1987 he composed an adaptation of ” The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz ” , with lyrics by David Spencer, with whom he would repeat in 1992 in the musical ” W eird Romance” , which the WPA Theater would also produce.
His next leap to fame came through the contract he signed with Disney to work with Howard Ashman, composing songs for his cartoon movies, which in their first collaboration ” The Little Mermaid” in 1989, would give them the Oscar for Best Soundtrack and Best Original Song for “Under the Sea”, although “Kiss the Girl” from the same film was also nominated.
After the enormous success obtained, Disney gave them carte blanche for their next project, “Beauty and the beast”, attacking it as a classic Broadway musical, with its strong starting number with the introduction of the main character. , which brought them two new Oscars in 1991 for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for “Beauty and the beast”, which with “Belle” and “Be our guest” managed to have 3 of the 5 candidates for the award nominated in said category.
Alan Menken also wrote the music for a television documentary “Lincoln” based on the life of the American president and in 1990 he wrote the song “The measure of a man” for the film “Rocky V”, whose soundtrack was composed by Bill Conti.
In 1992, he was hired to write the song “My Christmas tree” for the movie “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” (Home Alone 2: Lost in New York), whose score was handled by John Williams . The same year he wrote the soundtrack and songs for the Disney movie Newsies , starring Ann Margret, Robert Duvall and a very young Christian Bale , with Jack Feldman as lyricist.
Howard Ashman, a victim of AIDS, was unable to finish work on his next Disney film Aladdin and Tim Rice was hired to write the remaining songs to complete the score. This new film hit the target again and won two new Oscars in 1992: for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for “A whole new world” written by Tim Rice, although “Friend like me” was also nominated for Ashman among the 5 candidates.
“Life with Mickey” was Disney’s next nonmusical film with Michael J. Fox for which Menken wrote the music in 1993, followed by ” A Christmas Carol ” based on the short story by Charles Dickens , with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens which premiered in 1994 at the Paramount Theater in New York, with such success that it was performed for many years in the Christmas program at Madison Square Garden. This musical was adapted in 1994 for television, with Kelsey Grammer as the miserly Scrooge.
Disney considered taking over Broadway and commissioned a stage musical adaptation of the film “Beauty and the Beast.” They turned to Tim Rice to fill in the missing songs to get the length of a Broadway musical. Menken received Tony and Drama Desk nominations for Music and Musical Adaptation when it was released in 1994, though he didn’t get either.
The next Disney movie for Menken was ” Pocahontas” , in which he worked with Stephen Schwartz as a lyricist and again monopolized the 1995 Oscar Awards, winning Best Original Score and Best Original Song for “Colours of the wind”. Every time Menken went to the Oscars with a Disney movie, he was the undisputed winner, having won EIGHT Oscars, 4 for Best Original Score and 4 for Best Song, which made him the living being with the highest number of Oscars. In addition to the third holder of more Oscars to his credit, only below Walt Disney and Alfred Newman.
Soundtrack fans and I suppose the profession were a little unhappy after seeing classical composers such as John Williams , Ennio Morricone , John Barry , Jerry Goldsmith , Dave Grusin , Marc Shaiman , Randy Newman or James Newton-Howard , among others and as a result of the last Oscar “pack” for Menken, the Academy reconsidered the candidacy by dividing the award into two categories, one for the best dramatic film and the other for the best comedy or musical film.
In 1996, when Menken went with ” The Hunchback of Notre Dame “, in my opinion his best score for Disney, was defeated by Rachel Portman and her music for “Emma”, with which the Academy broke the curse, three years later, returned to the system of a single category for original music.
Menken was able to make up for the inconvenient size plot-wise, writing a musical adaptation for the theater, more faithful to the story of Victor Hugo, which curiously premiered in 1999 in Berlin, with great reviews, but perhaps the dramatic ending and the somber air of the musical, they made the producers suspicious that it would be successful on Broadway and after learning about a rewritten version in 2015 that premiered at the Paper Mill, hoping to be able to take it to Broadway, it was confirmed that it would not finally reach New York.
The year 1997 was the year of King David ambitious project entrusted to Menken and Tim Rice to write a musical show completely sung, intending to premiere to celebrate the 3000th anniversary of the birth of the city of Jerusalem.
Written for a large choir and orchestra, given the logistical impossibility of staging such a work outdoors, it forced them to rethink the musical as an oratorio, which was performed in 1997 semi-staged in only nine performances, at the recently restored New Amsterdam Theater in New York. The play lasted two hours and forty-five minutes and there is only one CD recorded live of it, with some songs, and there are no plans to premiere it on Broadway.
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