Alan Menken

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Beauty and the Beast

Beautiful Belle, dissatisfied with life in her small provincial French town, ignores her would-be suitor, the vain Gaston, as she cares for her father, the eccentric Maurice. When Maurice stumbles upon a foreboding castle while lost in the woods, the servants, enchanted into a progression toward becoming household objects, try to make him welcome, but he is thrown into the dungeon by the master of the castle, The Beast. Belle comes to rescue her father and agrees to remain in the castle as her father’s substitute. In order to break the spell, the Beast must learn to love another and be loved in return. Belle seems a likely candidate, but it takes the Beast a while to rein in his temper. Belle desperately misses her father, so the Beast sadly allows her to leave. Gaston, realizing the Beast is a rival for Belle’s affection, leads the townsfolk to storm the castle and kill him. Belle rushes back to the castle in time to profess her love for the Beast, and the spell is broken.

 

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Howard Ashman giving direction during a “Beauty” recording session.

(L-R) Alan, David Friedman, Jerry Orbach, Kathy Bennett, Angela Lansbury, Roy Disney, Mike Farrow

"Gaston"

Alan's Thoughts

The legacy of “Beauty and the Beast” is forever linked with the last days of Howard Ashman. When we started writing our songs Howard’s health issues were something he was keeping secret. AIDS was a death sentence, both physically and professionally. But, as we worked on our songs, his angst, his anger and his anxiety would create an unbearable writing and demoing process. The smallest issues would become magnified into personal crises. And I didn’t understand why. Then, following our Oscar wins for “The Little Mermaid”, Howard let me in on what was happening and, from that point forward, as heavily as his impending mortality weighed on us, we were united in understanding the road ahead. The score is forever tinged with the idea of undying love and the movie was deepened by the personal drama that was being played out behind the scenes.