Junior Theater Festival 2013: Alan Menken Reveals Aladdin Broadway Details and Talks About the Power of Newsies Fans

By Adam Hetrick
13 Feb 2013

Alan Menken tears up as he is serenaded by over 100 students at the Junior Theater Festival.
photo by Marcus Woollen/MTI

You are also working on a Broadway-aimed production of Aladdin, which will not only expand on the original 1992 animated film, but will also return to some of your initial inspirations with your late writing partner Howard Ashman.
AM: At the same time Howard Ashman and I were writing "The Little Mermaid," we were writing "Aladdin." So we had a whole score that involved Aladdin's mom, and his sidekicks, Babkak, Omar and Kassim, and it had a lot of plot elements that we don't have in the movie. And the movie was great, but I said, "If we are going to do this theatrical adaptation, for me, the perk would be to try to bring in the songs that Howard and I wrote for the movie that never made it in.

So we have "Proud of Your Boy," a number that Aladdin was originally to sing in the movie to his mother directly, but now it's to his mother in heaven. There's a number "Babkak, Omar, Aladdin and Kassim," which is kind of the friends' Vaudeville number that they do in the streets of Agrabah. There's a song called "High Adventure," where they perform a rescue at the end of Act Two, which is so much fun. It's one of those numbers I was dying to see on stage. There's "Call Me Princess" for Princess Jasmine, which was a real early throw-away, but we were able to make use of that thanks to my new collaboration with Chad Beguelin (Elf, The Wedding Singer), who wrote the book.

He was brilliant in finding ways to adapt songs we had originally written into the new book, and we also wrote three new songs together with him as my lyricist. We wrote one new song for the Genie, one new song for Jafar and a new duet for Aladdin and Jasmine — and we still have all the original songs from Howard Ashman and Tim Rice from the film. So much creative energy has gone into this new Aladdin, I love it. We had a production in Seattle that was one of the highlights of my life and we've even improved it since then.

Playbill just launched PlaybillVIP.com, which allows any school, amateur or community group to create an authentic Playbill for their production. Do you remember the first time you saw your name in Playbill?
AM: I started with Little Shop of Horrors Off-Broadway, and that was just a basic program, but the first official Playbill was Beauty and the Beast — it was amazing! I never thought of myself as a Broadway composer. I was an Off-Broadway composer, or a cabaret composer, or a film composer. And now, I realize when I walk around Broadway, I've been in seven different theatres there. It's incredible!