I was in high school and I discovered the original cast album of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. By the time I saw the show at the Westwood Playhouse, I was OBSESSED.
Tune after tune of the most infectious music I had ever heard. I then discovered an early Ashman/Menken work, GOD BLESS YOU MR. ROSEWATER and was even more smitten.
I was determined to figure out who this Alan Menken guy was.
A few years later the head of music at Disney, Chris Montan sent me an advance copy of the soundtrack to THE LITTLE MERMAID knowing I liked stuff like that.
Even after one listening, I knew the world had changed.
This was a classic Disney Animated musical WRITTEN NOW!
THE LITTLE MERMAID could proudly sit alongside other Disney classics like SNOW WHITE AND PINOCCHIO.
I loved that musical so much my girlfriend and I named our puppy, “Schmenken” in honor of of the songwriting duo.
Year after year when Alan brought home Oscars by the fistful, I would send him congratulatory pawprints from Schmenken.
I eventually got to spend some time with my hero when he was working with my client, lyricist David Zippel, on HERCULES. I remember hiding in the back of the recording stage of Paramount sobbing as I heard “Go the Distance” for the first time.
For many years I would make my annual pilgrimage to New York to meet with Alan’s manager, Scott Shukat pleading to let me work with him in representing Menken for films. And year after year I was politely rejected. Even in the face of defeat, I loved my time with Shukat, hearing tales from a great and respected Broadway icon.
Then in 2003 I was invited to the opening night of ALADDIN at Diseny’s California Adventure. I spent the evening with Menken sharing stories about Shukat who had sadly passed away recently.
We decided to have a breakfast meeting on Menken’s next trip to L.A. to explore the possibility of us working together.
I have NEVER been more nervous about any meeting in my life.
I was so scared I would somehow oversleep and miss our breakfast that I stayed the night at the hotel in Beverly Hills where our meeting was scheduled to assure I would be there on time.
I didn’t sleep a wink that night.
While I have worked with many great composers, to me, Alan Menken is in a league of his own. He was ground zero for my love of Disney, animation and beautifully-written musicals.
Like for many, his music is the soundtrack of my life.
Our nerve-racking breakfast went well enough for Menken to give me a chance.
Everything that has followed has been magical.
Seven Broadway shows including ALADDIN and NEWSIES. His first Tony. Creating new Disney classics like ENCHANTED and TANGLED. Cruise ship shows. His own musical TV series, GALAVANT. Concerts. Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Theme park attractions and shows. Developing an original live action musical at Universal. An upcoming live action film version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. And a new big, crazy, yet-to-be-announced project.
But even more magical than the work has been the relationship. I adore Alan. He truly loves making music. He asks about my daughter constantly. He cries when listening to playbacks.
It is almost impossible to describe what it is like work with and be friends with the very guy I have admired since hearing that first track of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.