In a wide-ranging interview for the Build Series to celebrate his newest Broadway musical A Bronx Tale, Tony-winning Newsies composer Alan Menken discussed many of his current and upcoming projects. The 32-minute video can be viewed above.
Menken spoke about live-action films of two of his most-beloved properties, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. “All of my old work is being redone, and it’s a wonderful thing,” he said, “from animation to the stage or the stage to movies or from the stage back to live action or whatever it is.”
“The greatest challenge [with a live-action film],” Menken added, “is always ‘What do I have to add to this?’ And that challenge is answered by who's directing it and who else is working on it, because I need them to be my collaborators to help me find new things. So what I look forward to most in these projects is the new collaborations.”
About Mermaid, which will also be celebrated by ABC in October with The Wonderful World of Disney: Little Mermaid Live, Menken said, “Lin-Manuel Miranda will be writing some new songs with me on this, and he's also a producer on it.”
“I knew of Lin ever since he was a little kid,” Menken explained, “because he went to the Hunter School system with my niece Jenny, and my sister would say, ‘There's a boy Lin Manuel-Miranda who's a huge Mermaid fan, [and] he'd like you to sign the poster please.’ Same thing with Bobby Lopez, who also went to the Hunter School system, and I'd heard about. It's a generation of young talent. So what I look forward to most is the new people I'll be working with and seeing what new they can bring to the project. I don't want to be the curmudgeon who says, ‘You can't change this or you can't alter that’ because, number one, people won't want me in the room, and, number two, it's exciting to come back to something and see what else is there.”
Work has yet to begin on Mermaid, but Menken has started collaborating with director Guy Ritchie on the live-action Aladdin.
As for other projects, Menken said he would like to revisit King David, the oratorio he wrote with Tim Rice that opened the New Amsterdam Theatre in 1997. “I would love to fix King David,” the Oscar winner said, adding, “I think it has really beautiful songs in it. It's an extremely rich meal.” He would also like to find a way to bring his musical TV series, Galavant, to the stage. Although there are currently no plans for a stage adaptation, a double CD featuring the 60 songs he composed for the series as well as two outtakes is in the works.
Menken also elaborated on his developing musical film project with Tony nominee Josh Gad for Universal, explaining that The Book of Mormon actor will play “the son of the most famous nanny of all time named Larry—kind of a screw-up nanny.”
Watch footage from A Bronx Tale below: