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Alan Menken Talks Writing Tunes for Alien TV Comedy The Neighbors and Readying Aladdin for Broadway

Alan Menken Talks Writing Tunes for Alien TV Comedy The Neighbors and Readying Aladdin for Broadway
Alan Menken; Lenny Venito & Jami Gertz in 'The Neighbors'
'They are so clueless about musical theater, but so romantic about it too.'

Eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken has written songs for some pretty bizarre characters over the years, including singing candlesticks (Beauty and the Beast), crabs and seagulls (The Little Mermaid) and man-eating plants (Little Shop of Horrors). Now the famed composer can add aliens to that list. Menken has composed songs for the March 13 musical episode of ABC’s extra-terrestrial comedy The Neighbors.

“Aliens are the best, and these ones are especially great,” Menken told Broadway.com of working on the show. The episode finds the Bird-Kersee family (aliens living in New Jersey, who take the names of famous athletes) discovering the excitement of Broadway musicals after they see Annie. “They are so clueless about musical theater, but so romantic about it too,” Menken said. The aliens’ naivete inspired the composer to pen songs he likens to those sung by Gisele in Enchanted and Belle. “[The songs] have this wonderful quality of innocence that you can laugh at and love at the same time.”

Menken is also busy revisiting his Oscar-winning tunes from Aladdin as the musical readies to fly to Broadway next year. “I’m going back to songs that I thought were lost forever, and now they’re getting a new lease on life,” Menken said of the musical, which will include numbers such as “High Adventure“ and "Proud of Your Boy,” both cut from the hit 1992 animated film. “These were songs that were going to be the tent poles of the movie, but then there were rewrites,” he explained.

Several characters that did not appear in the film will now show up on stage, as well. “It’s still like the movie, but it’s told through the point of view of Aladdin’s sidekicks Babak, Omar and Kassim. They’re kind of a vaudeville troupe, so it’s a little bit like one of those old Bob Hope/Bing Crosby Road pictures.”

Menken’s music will also be back up on the big screen soon with the film adaptation of Marty and Sid Krofft’s ‘70s TV series Lidsville. The trippy Saturday morning show followed a boy who, after climbing into a magician’s giant hat, gets transported to a magical world inhabited by hat-people. Working in the rock genre has been a welcome break from the fairy tale world for Menken.

“I thought it would be fun to do a psychedelic concept album homage, so the songs are all in the style of ‘60s groups like the Beatles, Moody Blues and the Who,” he said. “If we do our job well, [kids] are going to love it. The animation is going to be so eye-popping and psychedelic. It’s been a trip down memory lane for me. I was in college from 1967 to '71, and we all had hair down our backs, walked around with half our clothes and would just lay on the dormitory floor [listening to records] as the music floated above us.”

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