"Howard Sings Ashman" Is Latest CD in Songwriter Series From PS Classics

News   "Howard Sings Ashman" Is Latest CD in Songwriter Series From PS Classics
 
PS Classics, the label dedicated to the heritage of Broadway and American popular song, will release "Howard Sings Ashman" this fall as the next volume in its ongoing Songwriter Series.
Alan Menken (r.) with the late Howard Ashman.
Alan Menken (r.) with the late Howard Ashman.

The disc will feature performances by the late Grammy, Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning lyricist of Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors and The Little Mermaid, which are among other film and stage projects he worked on. The release date will be Nov. 4.

"Howard Sings Ashman" is being prepared with the assistance and cooperation of Howard Ashman's sister, Sarah Ashman Gillespie, and his life partner, Bill Lauch.

When the Disney films "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast" received rave reviews for their crafty, Broadway-quality songs by Ashman and composer Alan Menken (who already had a musical stage hit with Little Shop of Horrors), fans of show tunes pricked up their ears and wondered if the team would bring their talents to the musical stage again. Ashman's career was cut short by complication from AIDS in 1991; he did not live to see Broadway stage versions of Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.

Although a track listing has not yet been disclosed, Philip Chaffin, co-founder of PS Classics, told Playbill.com that he expects the album to include selections from Ashman's most famous scores (Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid and "Aladdin"), his lesser-known shows (including God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and Smile), as well as several unknown songs from unproduced works.

In addition to being an Academy Award-winning lyricist, Ashman was artistic director of the WPA Theatre in New York City and a librettist (Broadway's Smile), director (Smile and Little Shop) and film producer ("Beauty and the Beast," "The Little Mermaid"). He was born in Baltimore. The Songwriter Series albums — drawn primarily from private "demo" recordings — have included such songwriters as Hugh Martin, Charles Strouse and Jonathan Larson performing their own work. The series is produced in conjunction with the Library of Congress, under the supervision of producer Steve Nelson.

Founded in 2000 by Tommy Krasker & Philip Chaffin, PS Classics is a four-time Grammy nominee for its cast albums of Assassins, Nine: The Musical, Grey Gardens and Company. Its recent releases include solo discs by Maureen McGovern and Kerry Butler and the original cast recordings of A Catered Affair and Adding Machine.

For more information, visit www.psclassics.com.

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Ashman received the 1989 Academy Award for Best Song for "Under the Sea," written with his longtime collaborator, Alan Menken. Ashman and Menken earned a total of six awards for "The Little Mermaid," including two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and two Grammy Awards.

After earning an MFA from Indiana University, Ashman moved to New York in 1974 and became an editor at Grosset & Dunlap, during which time he wrote plays, including 'Cause Maggie's Afraid of the Dark, The Confirmation and Dreamstuff, a musical version of The Tempest. Dreamstuff marked the start of his time Off-Broadway's WPA Theatre. He became artistic director there in 1977. In 1979, he and Menken wrote a musical version of Kurt Vonnegut's "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater." Ashman's greatest success at WPA was the musical version of Roger Corman's film "Little Shop of Horrors," also written with Menken. The musical received the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for the Best Musical of 1982-83. Little Shop of Horrors became one of the longest-running musicals in Off-Broadway history. The London production received the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical, and productions of Little Shop of Horrors. It has since blossomed around the world, and was made into a 1986 film, for which Menken and Ashman wrote two new songs (including his first Academy Award nominated-song, "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space").

Ashman was book writer, lyricist and director for God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Little Shop and Smile, written with Marvin Hamlisch, for which he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Book.

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