It's a miracle Alan Menken hasn't composed a musical about the Pony Express. He could, having spent the past several years mounting, dismounting, remounting and sometimes straddling three horses at once in a mad dash to the Broadway finish line.
The last filly to leave the post and the first to arrive was Sister Act, based on a 1992 Whoopi Goldberg antic about a targeted gun-moll who gets herself to a nunnery. It opened at the Broadway Theatre last season and is still standing.
Then, Menken applied himself to improving a Disney movie musical he and lyricist Jack Feldman wrote, also in 1992, called Newsies, about the New York newsboys' strike of 1899. The idea was to make the property ready for regional licensing, but it premiered last year at the Paper Mill Playhouse to such enthusiasm that it was immediately fast-tracked to Broadway, where it opened March 29 at the Nederlander.
And finally (although it came first) is Leap of Faith, which is playing St. James, opening April 26, the last day of Tony eligibility this season. It, too, comes from a 1992 movie of the same name — this one starring Steve Martin as a charlatan in evangelical wolf's-clothing.
Put them all together, and whaddaya got? Alan Menken, "King of New York," to appropriate a song title of his — if not that, then certainly King of Broadway, American Division. Rare indeed is The Music Man who has three shows running simultaneously on Broadway. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Menken's sometime collaborator, Tim Rice, both Brits, currently share the same distinction, but two of their three shows are revivals and Menken's are new. "It's incredible, a fluke of timing," he says, "and, in some ways, not something I'd have chosen. So much has to do with, frankly, producers. Once we write the shows, it's kinda out of our hands."
Not that Menken has so many Tonys he can afford to compete with himself. "I have zero, and I could come out of this year with zero, too."
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