The release, the latest entry in PS Classics' ongoing Songwriter Series, will be a two-CD affair, with the second disc devoted entirely to 15 demos from the late Howard Ashman's 1986 Broadway collaboration with Marvin Hamlisch, Smile. The short-lived show about a beauty pageant has a cult following, despite the fact that it never got a cast album.
The Smile tracks, never before released, date from a studio demo by Ashman and Hamlisch recorded in May 1986, six months before the show's Broadway run.
PS Classics also revealed that the first disc — 18 tracks — will include Ashman's collaborations with Alan Menken from "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and "The Little Mermaid," as well as individual tracks from Diamonds (with Jonathan Sheffer) and from Babe, Ashman and Menken's unfinished musical on the life of Babe Ruth.
The discs will feature performances by the late Grammy, Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning lyricist, who was also a librettist and a director. "Howard Sings Ashman" is being prepared with the assistance and cooperation of Howard Ashman's sister, Sarah Ashman Gillespie, and his life partner, William 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.
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, Xanadu and Adding Machine.
For more information, visit www.psclassics.com.
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.