NiteLife Person (and Plant!) of the Week: Composer Alan Menken (The Man) & Audrey II (The Man-Eating Plant)

By ROB LESTER****This Friday, see a 3-man Little Shop of Horrors. Its composer, Alan Menken, who turned 68 this week, has more than a birthday to celebrate: the 35th anniversary of that musical’s off-

Broadway opening (the sci-fi take-off took off Off-Off-Broadway first).  We salute the composer and, with caution and from a distance, that man-eating plant named Audrey II who provides the titular horrors. At Feinstein’s/54 Below, all the roles will be played by three men (and one guest): They are billed as  The Heavyweights: Michael Buchanan (Cry-Baby), Jeremy Geller (The Great Blueness), and Max Wilcox (Glee), with special guest Skyler Volpe (Rent 20th Anniversary Tour), premiering what they call their “madcap, rambunctious” Little Shop concert. But enough Shop talk.  Let’s note what else Menken has managed with music, since he is our Person of the Week and the bloodthirsty plant hasn’t won a Tony Award, all those Grammys and Golden Globes and more—but Alan did. For show times and information visit:

Alan Menken is currently represented on Broadway by his music for A Bronx Tale and Aladdin.  The first of his several stage musicals that began as a Disney film, Beauty and the Beast, closed seven years ago this week after an amazing 13-year run. This week also sees the release of the first-ever official recording of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, a musical he wrote 38 years ago (with Howard Ashman, also the lyricist for Little Shop and many of the Disney scores). The CD, on the invaluable Ghostlight Records label, comes out on Friday and features the cast of the City Center Encores! presentation that ran one year ago this week.  The last days of July seem to be pretty eventful for Mr. Menken!

At NiteLife Exchange, ladies and gentlemen, we are all about “where Broadway meets cabaret.”  It’s our tag line.  So we’re glad to see a Menken/Ashman score presented in that cabaret venue this week— where, on August 24, the cast of Newsies reunites for a show for their fourth year doing so.  And guess who wrote the music for that score (film and stage versions.  That’s right.)  And, before he scored with all these score, this man of music spent the last half of the 1970s in what his website calls “The Cabaret Years.”  Singing for the folks and accompanying himself on piano, tells us that: “Alan performed on the New York City cabaret circuit. In addition to showcasing his own music, he also acted as musical director and arranger for other performers. He often played The Ballroom, Reno Sweeney, and Tramps.  He showcased material from early musicals like Midnight, Harry the Rat, and Apartment House. He contributed material to revues like New York’s Back in Town, Big Apple Country and The Present Tense.”  Chip Zien was in the first-named revue; it played day time slots in the East 54 Street Citicorp complex and admission was free; he also was in the cast of a revue of Menken material called Patch Patch Patch at The Laurie Beechman Theatre (before it got that name).  Back in the day, he sometimes wrote lyrics, too.

Flash forward to 2017 and Alan Menken has had plenty on his plate and plates to spin: In addition to the things mentioned already, there was that new film version of Beauty and the Beast playing on screens, the stage version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in La Jolla, CA,  and he just appeared to sing his own songs and share anecdotes with Disney fans at the D23 Expo. And he has more that he’s Tangled with professionally…. as usual.

See for Alan through the years, with sound and video.