Alan Irwin Menken
(born July 22, 1949) is an American composer, songwriter, conductor, music director
and record producer. Menken is best known for his scores and songs for films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios
. His scores and songs for The Little Mermaid
(1989), Beauty and the Beast
(1992), and Pocahontas
(1995) have each won him two Academy Awards
. He also composed the scores and songs for Little Shop of Horrors
(1992), The Hunchback of Notre Dame
(1997), Home on the Range
(2007), and Tangled
(2010), among others. His accolades
include eight Academy Awards
, a Tony Award
, eleven Grammy Awards
, seven Golden Globe Awards
, and a Daytime Emmy Award
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, 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 a Daytime Emmy Award
among many other honors. Menken is one of sixteen people to have won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy, and a Tony
Alan Irwin Menken was born on July 22, 1949, at French Hospital
, to Judith and Norman Menken. His father was a boogie-woogie piano-playing dentist, and his mother was an actress, dancer and playwright.
His family was Jewish
Menken developed an interest in music at an early age, taking piano and violin lessons. He began to compose at an early age.
At age nine, at the New York Federation of Music Clubs Junior Composers Contest, his original composition "Bouree" was rated Superior and Excellent by the judges.
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".
He then enrolled at New York University
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."
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."
After college, he attended the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop
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
From 1974 to 1978, he showcased various BMI workshop works, such as Midnight
, Apartment House
(lyric by Muriel Robinson), Conversations with Pierre
, Harry the Rat
and Messiah on Mott Street
(lyrics by David Zippel
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.
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."
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."
Menken contributed material to revues
like New York's Back in Town
, Big Apple Country
, The Present Tense
(1977), Real Life Funnies
(Off-Broadway, 1981), Diamonds
(Off-Broadway, 1984), and Personals
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."
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.
He collaborated with Howard Ashman
in an uncompleted musical called Babe
with Tom Eyen
in Kicks: The Showgirl Musical
and with David Rogers in The Dream in Royal Street
(c. 1981), which was an adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream
Menken contributed music for the film The Line
(1980), directed by Robert J. Siegel.
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 Off Broadway 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
For his body of work in musical theatre, he was awarded the BMI Career Achievement Award in 1983.
Disney Renaissance and later films
Menken and Ashman's Beauty and the Beast
garnered them three 1991 Oscar nominations for Best Song, winning for its title song
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
Menken also won the Oscar for Best Score. Menken's live action musical film Newsies
, with lyrics by Jack Feldman
, was released in 1992.
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.
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.
In 2013, he was a guest at the annual Junior Theatre Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, and was honored with the Junior Theater Festival Award.
He gave a concert there, including music that was cut from various productions, while talking about his creative process.
As of 2019, Menken is reuniting with his Newsies
creators Jack Feldman
and Harvey Fierstein
to develop a new musical called Greetings from Niagara Falls
. A reading was held in January 2019; however, there is no word on future plans for the project at this time.
From 1989 to 1990, Menken and Howard Ashman
wrote songs for the popular puppet TV show Sesame Street
In 2008, Menken said that his work on Sesame Street
was "pathetic money, but it still had some prestige to it. It was on the air and [he] was getting some royalties".
The duo also wrote a song titled "Wonderful Ways to Say No" for the 1990 animated anti-drug special Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue
In 2015, Menken co-composed the score for the musical television series Galavant
alongside Christopher Lennertz
, reuninting him with Tangled
screenwriter Dan Fogelman
Menken also co-wrote songs for the series alongside Glenn Slater
The series lasted two seasons, first airing on January 4, 2015, and last airing on January 31, 2016.
In 2017, Menken and Slater returned to write songs for the animated series Rapunzel's Tangled Adventure
, which is set after the events of Tangled
The series ended in 2020, after three seasons.
On July 26, 2020, Menken and Slater won the Daytime Emmy Award
for Original Song in a Children's, Young Adult or Animated Program for the song titled "Waiting in the Wings".
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
. They have two daughters, Anna Menken and Nora Menken.
- Dear Worthy Editor (Off-Broadway, c.1974)
Book by Judy Menken
Based on the letters-to-the-editor of Jewish-American newspaper Daily Jewish Forward
- Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (Off-Broadway, 1979)
- Little Shop of Horrors (Off-Broadway, 1982; West End, 1983; Broadway, 2003)
Lyrics by Ashman
Based on the 1960 black comedy film
- Weird Romance (Off-Broadway, 1992)
- Beauty and the Beast (Broadway, 1994; West End, 1997)
Lyrics by Ashman and Tim Rice
Based on the 1991 Disney film
- A Christmas Carol (Madison Square Garden, 1994-2003)
- King David (Broadway, 1997)
- Der Glöckner von Notre Dame (Berlin, 1999)
- The Little Mermaid (Broadway, 2008)
- Sister Act (West End, 2009; Broadway, 2011)
Lyrics by Slater
Based on the 1992 comedy film
- Leap of Faith (Broadway, 2012)
Lyrics by Slater
Based on the 1992 film
- Newsies (Paper Mill Playhouse, 2011; Broadway, 2012)
- Aladdin (Seattle, 2011; Broadway, 2014)
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (La Jolla Playhouse, 2014)
Lyrics by Schwartz
Based on the 1996 film and the 1831 novel by Victor Hugo
- The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (Montreal, 2015)
- A Bronx Tale: The Musical (Broadway, 2016)
- Hercules (Central Park, 2019)
Lyrics by David Zippel
Based on the 1997 Disney film
Alan Menken has received eight Academy Awards (and eleven nominations), eleven Grammy Awards (and twelve nominations), one Tony Award (and four nominations), and one Daytime Emmy Award. He has also received seven Golden Globe Awards (and nine nominations), one Drama Desk Award (and five nominations), and three Outer Critics Awards.
He was made 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.
In 2019, Menken finally accepted the Razzie Award
for "Worst Original Song" he won at the 13th Golden Raspberry Awards
(1993) for "High Times, Hard Times" from Newsies
(1992), becoming the first person to win a Razzie and Oscar in the same year.
Menken wrote the music for the song, and shared the award with lyricist Jack Feldman
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Last edited on 10 May 2021, at 06:57
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