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Alan Menken

Alan Menken

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: July 22, 1949 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New Rochelle, New York, USA Profession: composer, song arranger, lyricist, music producer, singer, accompanist

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

American composer Alan Menken was responsible for some of the best known film and stage musicals of the late 20th Century. Born in New York City, he originally set out to become a recording artist. In the mid-'70s, he began gravitating towards musical theater, contributing songs to a number of revues and workshops. His early attempts to write a full musical, though, went unproduced. His luck changed when he began a long partnership with playwright and lyricist Howard Ashman. They worked together on a musical adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's novel "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" that ran Off-Broadway. Their next collaboration, however, earned them a place in musical theater history. Based on a little seen 1960 film, "Little Shop of Horrors" opened in 1982 and went on to become the highest grossing Off-Broadway production of all time. The play was adapted to film in 1986, and Menken and Ashman's original composition "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" earned the duo an Oscar nomination. The pair were hired by Disney as the company was attempting to reinvigorate its animated film division. They wrote the music for "The Little Mermaid" (1989), winning Oscars for Best Original Song ("Under the Sea") and Best...

American composer Alan Menken was responsible for some of the best known film and stage musicals of the late 20th Century. Born in New York City, he originally set out to become a recording artist. In the mid-'70s, he began gravitating towards musical theater, contributing songs to a number of revues and workshops. His early attempts to write a full musical, though, went unproduced. His luck changed when he began a long partnership with playwright and lyricist Howard Ashman. They worked together on a musical adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's novel "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" that ran Off-Broadway. Their next collaboration, however, earned them a place in musical theater history. Based on a little seen 1960 film, "Little Shop of Horrors" opened in 1982 and went on to become the highest grossing Off-Broadway production of all time. The play was adapted to film in 1986, and Menken and Ashman's original composition "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" earned the duo an Oscar nomination. The pair were hired by Disney as the company was attempting to reinvigorate its animated film division. They wrote the music for "The Little Mermaid" (1989), winning Oscars for Best Original Song ("Under the Sea") and Best Score. That kicked off one of the most successful runs in film history. They partnered again on "Beauty and the Beast" (1991), and added another two Academy Awards. As work began on Disney's next animated offering, "Aladdin" (1992), Ashman died from complications related to AIDS. Famed lyricist Tim Rice stepped in and worked with Menken to complete the music for "Aladdin," and again, the film won Oscars for Best Original Song ("A Whole New World") and Best Score. Menken also worked with Jack Feldman on Disney's live-action musical, "Newsies" (1992). While the film was considered a flop, the property went on to find new life as a successful Broadway show. Menken returned to working with Disney animation, working with Stephen Schwartz on "Pocahontas" (1995) and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1996), as well as with David Zippel for "Hercules" (1997). He also contributed the score to a number of other films, including "Life With Mikey" (1993), "Home On the Range" (2004) and "Tangled" (2010). Menken and Schwartz reunited to provide the music for Disney's hit "Enchanted" (2007). He also worked with the studio to adapt both "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin" into Tony-winning Broadway shows. He had additional success adapting the films "Sister Act" and "A Bronx Tale" into Broadway musicals. Menken's Disney partnership continued as well. He worked with the studio on its live-action film adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast" (2017), before partnering with the Oscar and Tony-winning team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul on a live-action version of "Aladdin" (2019). He went on to work with Broadway superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda on a similar update of "The Little Mermaid" and re-teamed with Schwartz on the "Enchanted" sequel, "Disenchanted."

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Milestones close milestones

:
After graduating from NYU, performed in Manhattan clubs, sometimes playing his own compositions
:
Collaborated with Zippel and book writer Larry Gelbart on stage musical biography of director Busby Berkeley
:
Composed the punk rock musical "Atina, Evil Queen of the Galaxy" a star vehicle for drag performer Divine
1980:
Contributed two songs (which he also performed) to the feature film, "The Line"
2002:
Worked with Gelbart on a musical adaptation of "Lysistrata" for the American Repertory Theatre; version not produced as ART artistic director deemed it "ferociously obscene"
1994:
Composed the music for the hit NYC musical production of "A Christmas Carol" at Madison Square Garden's Paramount Theater
1990:
Contributed the song, "The Measure of a Man" to "Rocky V"; performed by Elton John
:
Had an active career writing and singing commercial jingles
:
Wrote music for Michael Bennett's workshop production of the New Wave rock musical, "Battle of the Giants" and provided music and lyrics for the Manhattan Theater Club's production of "Real Life Funnies"
1986:
Adapted the song score for "Little Shop of Horrors" for the feature film version
1992:
Composed music for "Weird Romance" (with David Spencer lyrics) produced off-Broadway
1980:
Considered leaving show business after a series of flops
1992:
Filed breach of contract suit against Concorde-New Horizons over the musical rights to "Little Shop of Horrors" after Concorde granted an option for an animated TV series (using the music) to Saban International
1998:
Signed 10-year contract with Disney to provide songs for animated and live-action films
1978:
Chosen by playwright and lyricist Howard Ashman to write the music for the WPA (and later off-Broadway) musical, "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater"
1987:
Composed the music for a musical production of "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz" (lyrics by David Spencer) produced in Philadelphia
2004:
Composed the music for the animated feature, "Home on the Range"
:
Grew up in New Rochelle, New York
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Studied piano and violin during high school
1992:
Wrote eight songs (in collaboration with lyricist Jack Feldman) and the score for Disney's live-action musical, "Newsies"
1997:
With David Zippel, wrote the songs for Disney's animated "Hercules"
1982:
Premiered "Little Shop of Horrors" Off-Broadway
2007:
Composed all the music for the live-action/animated film, "Enchanted"; earned a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for the song, "That's How You Know"; also received two additional Oscar nominations for the songs "Happy Working Song" and "So Close"
1991:
Wrote (with Ashman), produced and arranged songs for another well-received Disney feature, "Beauty and the Beast"
1989:
Composed music for Disney's "The Little Mermaid"
1991:
After Ashman died during the project, began collaborating with lyricist Tim Rice on the Disney feature, "Aladdin"
2008:
Composed and wrote the music for the Broadway musical version of "The Little Mermaid"; earned a Tony award nomination for Best Original Score
1995:
Composed the score and music for the songs (Stephen Schwartz provided the lyrics) for Disney's animated hit "Pocahontas"
2011:
Teamed with Glenn Slater to compose the music for Broadway's "Sister Act"; earned a Tony nomination for Best Original Score
:
Won eighth Academy Award
:
Won Tony for stage adaption of "Newsies"
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Education

BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop: New York, New York -
New York University: New York, New York - 1967

Notes

Describing the ease and chemistry he felt writing songs with lyricist Howard Ashman, Menken described their close collaboration and mutual recognition of musical moments as "a kind of shorthand. . . . Howard would have the basic idea of the number. Then he would ask what the music might sound like." --Quoted in PEOPLE, December 16, 1991

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Janis Menken. Former ballerina. Met Menken while working at the Hebrew Arts Center where he was an accompanist; married 1972.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Norman Menken. Dentist.
mother:
Judith Menken. Homemaker.
sister:
Faye Menken. Actor. Older; appeared on Broadway as one of the daughters during the original run of "Fiddler on the Roof".
daughter:
Anna Menken. Born c. 1985.
daughter:
Nora Menken. Born c. 1988.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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