The Houston Symphony opens its 2021–22 Bank of America POPS Season with a musical tribute to Alan Menken, the man who gave sound to an underwater kingdom in A Little Mermaid, scored the noble tale of a resilient and brave Native daughter, Pocahontas, and harmonized “A Whole New World,” in turn defining an entire generation of Disney films and stage shows.
A living legend in his own right, get to know the man behind the myth with these five facts about the composer, then get your tickets for this dazzling and enchanting homage to his life’s works.
- Alan Menken (b. 1942) hails from a musical family. He is the son of a pianist father and a professional dancer-mother. His father, however, worked as a dentist by trade and Menken actually intended to follow in his footsteps in medicine, before finally reinforcing his love of music during college.
- Before making their way to Disney, Menken and his writing partner, Howard Ashman, collaborated on the campy, cult-classic stage musical, Little Shop of Horrors. The two would go on to compose the soundtracks for several of Disney’s most successful films, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin before Ashman’s untimely death in the early 1990s.
- Menken has won eight Academy Awards, the most of any living person, and also holds the distinguishment as second highest number of wins in the music category. He has also been awarded 11 Grammy’s, a Tony, and a Daytime Emmy, making him an EGOT recipient.
- A prominent name in the Theatre-scene, Menken once had three Broadway musicals (Sister Act, Newsies, and Little Shop of Horrors) running simultaneously. It would be almost impossible to take a trip to New York without seeing one of his shows!
- As Disney has continued its recent path of reviving its animated classics into live action films, Menken has continued his contributions by revamping his original scores and even penning the occasion new piece, ensuring his legacy will continue to cement itself in our hearts for years to come.
Experience the magic yourself with Once Upon a Time: Alan Menken’s Broadway, September 3–5 at the Houston Symphony. This performance is led by Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke and features four powerhouse vocalists from the stages of Broadway!
By Mark Bailes