Alan Menken has worked closely with a number of top-drawer lyricists throughout his career, most recently partnering with Glenn Slater for a number of projects, but his collaborations with Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Stephen Schwartz stand above the rest. Here, the maestro looks back on what made them special:
(“Little Shop of Horrors,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin”)
“Howard was the boss. Howard was the greatest multi-talent I’ve ever been in a room with. He was so brilliant and so in tune with both what makes musicals tick and what makes our culture tick.
“What I learned from Howard was using musical style in a very clear and unobstructed way, and having faith in that as a storytelling device. That’s always stuck wth me.”
“I work much more in a music-first way with Tim. Tim is a real rock ‘n’ roll aficionado. What you get with Tim is a basic emotional generosity, and a charming, funny world view. Tim is like the Toastmaster of England. Sometimes you don’t know where these lyrics come from.
“There is clearly one song in my career that is the most successful song I ever wrote, and we wrote that song together: ‘A Whole New World.’ We both had a No. 1 single with it, and we won the Grammy for Song of the Year, and the Oscar and the Golden Globe.”
(“Pocahontas,” “The Hunchback of Norte Dame,” “Enchanted”)
“What ‘s incredible about Stephen Schwartz is that he’s a fellow composer. Stephen is the most respectful of my musical ideas of anyone. I’ll make a mistake and he’ll go, ‘oh, great, use that!’ He’s probably the only lyricist I know who’s willing to do a first draft of the lyrics right there in the room with me. We get into a room with no ideas, and something happens and we emerge with a song.”
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