Alan Menken

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Alan Menken
Alan Menken 2013 (cropped).jpg
Menken in 2013
Background information
Birth name Alan Irwin Menken
Born (1949-07-22) July 22, 1949 (age 66)
New York City, New York U.S.
Origin New Rochelle, New York, U.S
Genres Pop, musical theatre, operatic pop, film score
Occupation(s) Composer, songwriter, pianist, record producer
Instruments Piano, accordion, guitar, violin
Years active 1980–present
Labels Disneyland, Walt Disney Records, Warner Bros.
Associated acts Howard Ashman, Glenn Slater, Stephen Schwartz, Elton John, Tim Rice, David Zippel, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Website Alan Menken Official website

Alan Irwin Menken[1] (born July 22, 1949) is an American musical theatre and film composer and pianist. Menken is best known for his scores for films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. His scores for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Pocahontas have each won him two Academy Awards. He also composed the scores for Little Shop of Horrors, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Newsies, Home on the Range, Enchanted, Tangled, The Shaggy Dog, and Mirror Mirror.

Menken has collaborated on several occasions with lyricists including Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, Glenn Slater, Stephen Schwartz, and David Zippel. With eight Academy Award wins (four each for Best Original Score and Best Original Song), Menken is the second most prolific Oscar winner in a music category after Alfred Newman, who has nine Oscars.

Early life[edit]

Menken as a child in 1953

Alan Irwin Menken was born on July 22, 1949 at French Hospital in New York City to Normann Menken and his wife Judith. His father was a boogie-woogie piano-playing dentist, while his mother was an actress, dancer and playwright.[2][3][3]

He developed an interest in music at an early age, studying piano lessons under Mr. Higgs and Emily Harris, and learning violin lessons under Editha Braham. He was more interested in creating his own tunes as a child than practicing the songs assigned to him by his piano and violin teachers.[4] At age 9, he competed at New York Federation of Music Clubs Junior Composers Contest with his original composition entitled "Bouree". His composition was rated Superior and Excellent by the judges.[5]

He went to New Rochelle High School in New Rochelle, New York. In 1967, he became the concert master of the New Rochelle High School orchestra and took occasional musical liberties with variations and themes of The Masters. He later enrolled at New York University. He drifted from Pre-Med to Anthropology to Philosophy to finally graduating with a degree in Musicology in 1971 at the university's Steinhardt School. After college, he attended the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop. He performed frequently in local clubs and worked as a composer of jingles and songs and as an accompanist.


Early career[edit]

After graduating, Alan's plan was to become either a rock star or a recording artist. Though, his interest in writing musicals boosted when he joined the Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) Musical Theatre Workshop in 1971. He was mentored under the Broadway conductor 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 Stret (lyrics by David Zippel). While in the workshop, he also performed on the New York cabaret circuit. In this cabaret years, he would often play "The Ballroom", "Reno Sweeny" and "Tramps".

In his cabaret years, he contributed material to revues like New York's Back in Town, Big Apple Country and The Present Tense (1977). In The Present Tense, he contributed three numbers which were entitled "Cautiously Optimistic", "Yankee Man" and "Margaret". This short-lived revue introduced him in the marque.[6] Also, he contributed to other revues like Real Life Funnies (Off-Broadway, 1977), Diamonds (Off-Broadway, 1984) for the song "In the Cards" with Zippel as the lyricist, and Personals (Off-Off-Broadway, 1985) for the songs "I'd Rather Dance Alone" and "I Could Always Go to You" with lyrics by David Crane, Set Friedman and Martha Kauffamn.

He wrote several shows that are successfully showcased but not produced. He wrote Patch, Patch, Patch (1979), Atina, Evil Queen of the Galaxy (1980, lyrics by Steve Brown), The Thorn (1980, lyric by Brown) and The Line (1980, collaboration with Barry Manilow and Rod McBrien). He also collaborated with Howard Ashman in a musical called Babe but was never completed, with Tom Eyen in Kicks: The Showgirl Musical but was never produced, and with David Rogers in The Dream in Royal Street (1982) but was not produced.

For his body of work in musical theatre, he was awarded the BMI Career Achievement Award in 1983.

Breakthrough Years[edit]

Menken's had his first professional work when noted playwright Howard Ashman chose him and Engel to write the music for his musical adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. The musical was developed, cast, rehearsed and opened in May 1979 at WPA Theater under an Equity Showcase contract. It opened to excellent reviews and modest box office. Because of this, it was moved to Entermedia Theater where it only ran for a few months.

Since God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater had a cast of 14 performers, the show was just too big for Off-Broadway. So, Menken and Ashman wrote a musical with 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 Orpheum Theatre in 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 musical film starring Rick Moranis that earned Menken and Ashman their first Oscar nomination for the song "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space".[7]

In 1987, a musical adaptation of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, with lyrics by David Spencer, was produced in Philadelphia. In 1992, the WPA Theatre produced Menken's Weird Romance, also with lyrics also 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.

Disney Renaissance[edit]

On the strength of the success of Little Shop of Horrors, Menken and Ashman were hired to work at Walt Disney Company. The Disney project was The Little Mermaid. The challenge was to create an animated musical film of this Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale that could sit alongside Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella. Menken and Ashman wrote the songs of the film, and Menken began his career as a composer of film underscore. The film opened to critical and commercial success and signaled a new Disney era called Disney Renaissance. The film gave them their first Oscar win: Best Original Song for the song "Under the Sea". Menken also won the Oscar for Best Original Score.

In 1991, Beauty and the Beast followed the collaborative success of Menken and Ashman on The Little Mermaid. The film gave them three Oscar nominations for Best Original Song: "Beauty and the Beast", "Be Our Guest" and "Belle", winning one for "Beauty and the Beast". Menken also won the Oscar for Best Original Score.

The musical team of Menken and Ashman was working on Aladdin at the time of Ashman's untimely death in 1991. Subsequently, Menken went to collaborate with Tim Rice to finish the songs for the film in 1992. The film gave them an Oscar win for Best Original Song for "A Whole New World". Menken also won the Oscar for Best Original Score that year. In the same year, Menken's live action musical film Newsies, with lyrics by Jack Feldman, was released.

Three more animated musical films followed. Menken collaborated with Stephen Schwartz for the 1995 film Pocahontas, which led the two get two Oscar wins: Best Original Song and Best Original Score, Musical or Comedy. In 1996, the same musical team created the songs, and Menken, score, for The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In 1997, Menken collaborated with David Zippel for his last animated musical film in Disney Renaissance, Hercules.

Due to his influence in the Disney Renaissance, where animated musical films flourished, he was known as the "Disney Renaissance Man".

Post-Disney Renaissance[edit]

Menken is best known, however, for his work over the past two decades with the Walt Disney Studios scoring numerous films, including Disney animated classics The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Home on the Range, and Tangled, as well as the live-action Disney films Newsies (1992) and Enchanted (2007). Menken has received dual Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song on four of these projects. With eight Academy Award wins (four each for Best Original Score and Best Original Song), only composer Alfred Newman (nine wins) and Walt Disney (22 wins) have received more Oscars than Menken. He is tied in third place with late costume designer Edith Head. He currently holds the record for the most wins for a living person. He was named a Disney Legend in 2001.

Back to the Musical Theatre[edit]

Alan Menken returned to musical theatre with a stage musical adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. It opened on Broadway in April 1994, and ran for 13 years before it closed in July 2007. He would then go on to do the musical version of The Little Mermaid, which opened on Broadway in January 2008 and in Europe/the Netherlands in June 2012. Menken's Sister Act the Musical was produced in London, 2009, and opened on Broadway in Spring 2011. He was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Score for his work.[8]

Menken received the 2,422nd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 10, 2010.[9]

He currently has a musical version of Aladdin on Broadway whilst revising The Hunchback of Notre Dame for a Broadway audience.[10]

In December 2010, he was a guest on NPR's new quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!.

In January 2013, he was a special guest at the annual Junior Theatre Festival in Atlanta, GA. He gave a special concert for attendees, including a special medley and several songs that were cut from various productions, while talking about his creative process. While there, he was also honored with the Freddie G. Award for Musical Achievement. Upon receiving this award, he was serenaded with "Be our Guest" by a select group of performers.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Menken met the ballet dancer Janis Roswick while working with the Downtown Ballet Company. They have been married since November 1972. The couple has two daughters, Anna Menken and Nora Menken. He and his wife live in North Salem, New York.[12]


Score and/or songs[edit]

Year Title Director(s) Studio(s) Notes
1972 A Dancer's Life William Richert Warner Bros. Pictures Himself (Documentary)
1986 Little Shop of Horrors Frank Oz Warner Bros.
The Geffen Company
1989 The Little Mermaid Ron Clements
John Musker
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Animation Studios
1991 Beauty and the Beast Gary Trousdale
Kirk Wise
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Animation Studios
1992 Newsies Kenny Ortega Walt Disney Pictures N/A
Aladdin Ron Clements
John Musker
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Animation Studios
1993 Life with Mikey James Lapine Touchstone Pictures N/A
1995 Pocahontas Mike Gabriel
Eric Goldberg
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Animation Studios
1996 The Hunchback of Notre Dame Gary Trousdale
Kirk Wise
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Animation Studios
1997 Hercules Ron Clements
John Musker
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Animation Studios
2004 Home on the Range Will Finn
John Sanford
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Animation Studios
Noel Chazz Palminteri Convex Group N/A
A Christmas Carol Arthur Allan Seidelman Hallmark Entertainment
Television film
2006 The Shaggy Dog Brian Robbins Walt Disney Pictures N/A
2007 Enchanted Kevin Lima Walt Disney Pictures N/A
2010 Tangled Byron Howard
Nathan Greno
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Animation Studios
2012 Mirror Mirror Tarsem Singh Relativity Media N/A
2016 Sausage Party Greg Tiernan
Conrad Vernon
Columbia Pictures
Annapurna Pictures
2017 Beauty and the Beast Bill Condon Walt Disney Pictures Returning to score from animated film.
TBA Lidsville Conrad Vernon Universal Pictures
DreamWorks Animation
TBA Untitled musical comedy[13] Jeremy Garelick Universal Pictures N/A

Songs only[edit]


  • Sesame Street [the songs "Grouchelot", "What is Friend?", "It's Gonna Get Dirty Again," "Snuffle Friends," "Martian Family (Yip Yip Song)," and "Todos un Pueblo"] 1989-1990
  • Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue (supervising composer, the song "Wonderful Ways to Say No") 1990
  • Lincoln 1992
  • A Christmas Carol 2004
  • The Neighbors - S01E20 "Sing Like a Larry Bird" [the songs "More or Less The Kind of Thing You May or May Not Possibly See on Broadway", "Giselle", "More or Less The Kind of Thing You May or May Not Possibly See on Broadway" (Reprise)] 2013 (Emmy nominee)
  • Galavant (Thirty songs and reprises, score by Christopher Lennertz) 2014


Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Based on a 1965 novel by Kurt Vonnegut
Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Based on the 1960 black comedy film The Little Shop of Horrors
Lyrics by David Spencer
Two one-act musical: Based on "Her Pilgrim Soul" and "The Girl Who Was Plugged In"
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice
Based on the Disney film Beauty and the Beast
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Perennial holiday musical based on 1843 novella by Charles Dickens
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Based on the Biblical books of Samuel, 1 Chronicles and Psalms
Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Based on the Disney film The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the 1983 novel by Victor Hugo
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater
Based on the Disney film The Little Mermaid
Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Based on the 1992 comedy film Sister Act
Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Based on the 1992 film Leap of Faith (film)
  • Newsies (Paper Mill Playhouse, 2011; Broadway, 2012)
Lyrics by Jack Feldman
Based on the 1992 film Newsies
  • Aladdin (Seattle, 2011; Broadway, 2014)
Lyric by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin
Based on the 1992 film Aladdin
Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Based on the Disney film The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the 1983 novel by Victor Hugo
Lyrics by David Spencer
Based on the 1959 novel by André Deutsch
  • A Bronx Tale: The Musical (Paper Mill Playhouse, 2016)
Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Based on the 1990 autobiographical one-man play A Bronx Tale by Chazz Palminteri[14]


Upcoming projects[edit]

  • Menken is composing a new musical based on a 1994 film Corrina, Corrina with lyrics by Brian Yorkey and book by Jessie Nelson (writer for the film's screenplay).[15]
  • In June 2014, Bill Condon announced that he will direct the live film adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. Menken will return to score the film's music, which will feature songs from the original film and new material written by Menken and Tim Rice.[16]
  • Two musicals in the composition process are Mrs. Doubtfire with lyrics by David Zippel and book by Harvey Fierstein[17] and Happy Trails—a bio-musical about Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with lyrics by Glenn Slater and book by Marshall Brickman.[18] However, they were replaced by T Bone Burnett.[19] Also, David Zippel has been axed as lyricist for Mrs. Doubtfire, but Alan Menken and Harvey Fierstein remain.[20] No new lyricist announced at this time.
  • Menken will be composing music for the upcoming animated film Sausage Party directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan. Menken will compose 2 songs for the film with lyrics being written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.[21]


See List of awards and nominations received by Alan Menken

Alan Menken won eight Academy Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, eleven Grammy Awards, one Tony Award, one Drama Desk Award and two Outer Critics Awards. He was awarded as Disney Legends in 2002, and was the recipient Richard Kirk Career Achievement Award in 1998, of Freddie G. Award for Musical Excellence in 2013, of The Oscar Hammerstein Award in 2013, among others.


  1. ^ "Alan Menken Discography at Discogs". Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "Alan Menken Biography (1949-)", accessed August 27, 2011
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "2011 Tony Nominations Announced!", May 3, 2011
  9. ^ Gans, Andrew."Alan Menken to Be Honored with Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame", November 8, 2010
  10. ^ "BWW Exclusive: Alan Menken Talks 'Tangled', 'Sister Act', 'Leap Of Faith', 'Hunchback', 'Aladdin' & More", November 15, 2010
  11. ^ Junior Theatre Festival 2013
  12. ^ "Westchester Fall Arts Preview: Theater", Retrieved 2014-10-02.
  13. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (April 16, 2015). "Universal Wins 7-Figure Auction For Josh Gad & Jeremy Garelick Musical With Alan Menken & Stephen Schwartz Tunes". Deadline. Retrieved October 31, 2015. 
  14. ^ Gans, Andrew. "De Niro and Zaks Pick Jason Gotay, Nick Cordero, Richard H. Blake to Star in 'Bronx Tale: The Musical'",, December 18, 2015
  15. ^
  16. ^ McNary, Dave (March 16, 2015). "Disney’s Live-Action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Set for March 17, 2017". Variety. Retrieved January 10, 2016. 
  17. ^
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  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]