Alan Menken

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Hercules

When a son, Hercules, is born to Zeus and Hera, the king and queen of the gods, everyone rejoices except Hades, the god of the Underworld. Hades has been planning a takeover of Mount Olympus, and the Fates inform him that Hercules could throw a monkey wrench into those plans. Hades dispatches his two underlings, Pain and Panic, to kidnap and murder the baby, but they bungle the job and the child is adopted by a human couple. Hercules grows into an awkward teen with no idea of his divine origins, until a statue of Zeus comes to life to reveal that Zeus is Hercules’ father. The god provides his son with a “hero trainer,” a smart-alecky satyr named Philoctetes, as well as with the magical flying horse Pegasus.

Hercules trains hard to be a hero and gets his first chance to prove himself by rescuing the tough-talking maiden Megara — who is in fact secretly in league with Hades. The Lord of the Underworld sends a series of monsters to attack Hercules, but he defeats them all, becoming a celebrity in the process. Megara and Hercules fall in love, after which she becomes unwilling to betray him. Hades has other plans, however, and unleashes the fearsome Titans upon the world, while convincing Hercules that Megara has sold him out. It is not until Hercules is willing to risk his power and his life to save Megara that he becomes a true hero, who is able to vanquish the hotheaded villain.

 

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(L-R) Alan at the piano with David Zipple.

"Go The Distance"

Alan's Thoughts

“Hercules” represented many important things to me, when it was offered to me in 1995. It was my first collaboration with David Zippel, a brilliant lyricist who I’d wanted to write a musical with since we’d met in the early 80’s. It was a return to working with John Musker and Ron Clements, with whom I’d written “Mermaid” and “Aladdin”. And it was my first opportunity working with Greek mythology in a musical context. When we started out I was thinking we would write a very classically influenced score; thus the musical style of our lamented cut song, “Shooting Star”. But the request from John and Ron was to have this be a “gospel” score. I asked them “Why gospel?” And their logic was, “Gospel music is written to sing about God, just as our Hero is one of “the gods”. Okay… I was skeptical. But I was game to try anything. In the end, I think that choice worked well.