My Date with Alan Menken: Part 1

Estelle’s note: Super thrilled to welcome back THP’s co-creator, Michelle, who is ready to dish about her all around favorite guy, Alan Menken! It’s just about perfect timing too with the official opening of Newsies on Broadway tomorrow, March 28th. Sit back and enjoy Part 1!

It’s no secret that I am pretty much obsessed with the composer, Alan Menken. He may like to mention the songs he’s written for Disney (name every amazing movie from their modern Golden Age — his name is on there) but what I really love are his musical scores. Growing up, I realize I recognized the notes before I knew the words to songs. I knew the sound of the horn in the opening sequence to The Little Mermaid far sooner than I knew that the seaweed was always greener in somebody else’s lake. His scores were the soundtracks of my childhood that followed me to college where they would accompany my all-nighters and fits of creative inspiration.

I know I’m pretty fortunate to have met him at the Papermill Playhouse when I got a chance to see a dress rehearsal for Newsies. I never thought lady luck would be kind enough to set up another encounter though, let alone two more, but sometimes she can be really good to me.

Estelle had alerted me via Twitter that Alan Menken was going to be on Seth Rudetsky’s Broadway Chatterbox. Seth has an hour show featuring all kinds of Broadway talents and past guests have included Idina Menzel, Lin Manuel Miranda, Nathan Lane, Kristen Chenoweth, Adam Pascal, etc. This is just to name a few! When I found out Thursday’s guest was Mr. Menken and the tickets were $10 plus a two drink minimum, I quickly called up my dinner dates and asked if they would mind a slight detour. Fortunately for me, they are both fans of Alan (my Disney partner-in-crime, Stephen being one of them!) and off we went to Don’t Tell Mama, a piano bar near Times Square. We got there early and snagged seats right next to the piano.

I freaked out a little.

I had never seen a previous show or really knew who Seth Rudetsky was before this, but five minutes in, I knew it was going to be an interesting hour. Seth is extremely witty, funny and just very… colorful. The interview focused a great deal on Broadway since Alan is about to have a total of THREE shows playing at the same time (Newsies, Sister Act and Leap of Faith)!

The interview is actually up on BroadwayWorld right now so follow this link to see the whole show. Some of the things I really liked about this candid interview was that he spoke so honestly about trying to make it in the business before he was famous. He discussed all the projects no one remembers or has even heard of, proving that even the most famous of people had to start somewhere. When the topic of Howard Ashman came up, I was surprised to know that along with the high praise that Howard undoubtedly deserves, Alan also spoke about working with the perfectionist. Apparently, Howard was very strict with his music and arrangements. I liked that he was honest about the slight jealousy between them. I always thought that having two amazingly talented men in one room had to have had some kind of clash of opinions. Sometimes Disney driven interviews about Howard are so painstakingly positive that one wonders if the man was Jesus or something. I liked how Alan explained both the good and bad about working with him. Howard was human after all.

He ended the show with a plug for the benefit he was doing that weekend for P.S. 84. You could even hear my friend Rachael explain was a Title 1 school is (reduced, not religious lunches) and what show would be complete without a song? He gave us a bit of “King of New York.” (You can hear me scream “Play something from Newsies!” when he asked for requests.) When the show was over, Alan left pretty quickly and as we were paying our bill, I saw he had left his drink behind. Curious to know what kind of alcoholic drink he was consuming during the interview, I discreetly grabbed it and took a sip.

Do not judge me.

It was Diet Coke by the way. You would have wondered too- don’t lie.

I wasn’t disappointed at not being able to meet Alan at Don’t Tell Mama because Stephen and I already had our tickets to the P.S. 84 Benefit…

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