Alan Irwin Menken (born July 22, 1949) is an American musical theatre and film composer and pianist who is best known for his scores for films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Pocahontas which have each won him two Academy Award, as well as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and others. Menken was born in New York CIty, NY, on July 22, 1949, to a Jewish family, the son of dentist Norman Menken and his wife Judith, grew up in suburban New Rochelle, and developed an interest in music at an early age, studying piano and violin. He began with the music of Beethoven and Brahms, was later taken by the new folk movement, then added rock’n’roll and virtually anything else to his ever-expanding musical universe.
Menken went to New Rochelle High School in New Rochelle, NY, and attended college as a pre-med student, but later changed his focus to music at New York University’s Steinhardt School where he earned a music degree. After college, he attended the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop. He performed his own material in local clubs, hoping to become “a singer-songwriter in the Peter Allen / Billy Joel / Elton John / James Taylor / Jackson Browne mode” while working to support himself by as a composer of jingles and as an accompanist for ballet classes. Menken married to Janis Roswick-Menken, a former professional ballet dancer, in 1972, and the couple has two daughters, Anna and Nora.
In the late 1970s, Menken wrote several shows that were successfully showcased, but were not produced. Menken’s first major professional work was with lyricist Howard Ashman for the Off-Broadway 1979 WPA Theatre production of the play God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, an adaptation of a Kurt Vonnegut novel. This was well received, but three years later, he achieved greater success with the 1982 Off-Broadway musical Little Shop of Horrors, again with Ashman, for which he earned a Drama Desk Award nomination. Little Shop was adapted for a successful motion picture and later received a Broadway run. In 1983, Menken received the BMI Career Achievement Award for his body of work for musical theater, including Little Shop of Horrors, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Real Life Funnies, Atina: Evil Queen of the Galaxy (produced in workshop as Battle of the Giants), Patch, Patch, Patch, and contributions to numerous revues including Personals and Diamonds.
In 1987, Menken’s musical adaptation of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, with lyrics by David Spencer, was produced in Philadelphia. Menken is best known, however, for his work with Walt Disney Pictures scoring numerous films, beginning with Disney animated classic The Little Mermaid in 1989. This was followed by Beauty and the Beast in 1991 and Aladdin in 1992. He also wrote music for the Disney live-action film Newsies in 1992. Still in 1992, the WPA Theatre produced Menken’s Weird Romance, also with lyrics by Spencer. Menken’s 1994 musical based on the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and book by Mike Ockrent, debuted at Madison Square Garden’s Paramount Theater. The show proved successful and is becoming an annual New York holiday event. Menken received both Tony Award and Drama Desk Award nominations for the music to the stage musical version of Beauty and the Beast which opened on Broadway in 1994. The score for Pocahontas followed in 1995.
Menken was named a Disney Legend in 2001. More recently, he has provided the score for Disney’s Enchanted (2007). A musical version of The Little Mermaid opened on Broadway in January 2008. Menken’s Sister Act the Musical was produced in London, 2009. and Disney’s latest animated film Tangled in 2010. Menken received the 2,422nd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 10, 2010. He has received dual Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song on four of his Disney projects. With eight Academy Award wins (four each for Best Original Score and Best Original Song), only composer Alfred Newman with nine wins, has received more Oscars than Menken in a music category.
My collection contains the following works by Alan Menken:
Aladdin: Symphonic Suite.
Beauty and the Beast: Symphonic Suite.
Hercules (1997): Songs.
Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996): Songs.
Pocahontas (1995): Just Around the Riverbend and Colors of the Wind.
—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources