In honor of the “to-tal-e-clipse-of-the-sun,” I rewatched Little Shop of Horrors.
And if you didn’t just sing that eclipse line in your head, you should watch it too.
I had forgotten how much I love the score composed by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.
Alan Menken’s songs have been a part of our family’s life for as long as I can remember. When my son was a baby, we would sing him Feed Me from Little Shop of Horrors whenever he cried for food.
(Seriously. Can you think of a more appropriate song for a nursing infant? “FEED ME! Feed me all night long. You can do it! Feed me, Mommy! So I can grow up big. And strong.”)
alan menken at the d23 expo
Alan Menken’s session at D23 was the last session on the last day of the expo. I was so exhausted, I almost skipped it. Boy, am I glad I didn’t. Seeing him was one of my favorite parts of the D23 weekend.
His performance moved me to tears. Literally. Twice.
The first was when he sang Suddenly Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors. The opening lines, when Seymour sings to Audrey, give me chills every time I hear it.
Lift up your head, wash off your mascara
Here, take my Kleenex, wipe that lipstick away
Show me your face clean as the mornin’
I know things were bad, but now they’re okay
Suddenly Seymour is standing beside you
You don’t need no makeup, don’t have to pretend
Suddenly Seymour, is here to provide you
Sweet understanding, Seymour’s your friend
little shop of horrors
But we can credit them for taking the plot and turning it into a musical in 1982. Then turning that off-broadway musical into the 1986 musical movie directed by Frank Oz.
Here is a plot synopsis for the unfamiliar:
Seymour is an unassuming guy who works at a plant shop.
One day there is a “to-tal-e-clipse-of-the-sun,” and he discovers a strange plant that he names Audrey II after the object of his affection.
Audrey I is Seymour’s coworker who is dating a sadistic dentist who beats her.
Seymour discovers that Audrey II is a Big Green Mother From Outer Space and he’s bad. Oh, and Audrey II also needs to eat people to survive.
I won’t spoil the rest
the musical genius of alan menken
From Alan Menken’s presentation at D23, it was clear that he admired and missed his musical partner Howard Ashman who died of AIDS in 1991. Menken was the composer in the relationship and Ashman the lyrist. But like many creative partners they each did a little bit of both.
Menken’s lyrical influence is best in one of my favorite Little Shop of Horrors songs Dentist!.
Alan Menken’s father was a dentist. His father’s father was a dentist as was his father’s brother. Even his mother’s sister’s husband and father’s sister’s husband were dentists.
The song, sung by Steve Martin in the movie, pays homage (and poked fun) at the family business:.
alan menken and howard ashman saved disney animation
By the late 1980’s, Disney Animation was in a slump. A Hunchback size slump. A “we may never be great again” slump. One of their best animators left to form a new company and took several other animators with them. The Black Couldron had earned a dread PG rating. And aside from Roger Rabbit, Disney Animation hadn’t had a commercial hit in years.
The Disney introduced a new, spunky, redheaded princess who brushed her hair with a fork. In 1989, Alan Menken and his partner Howard Ashman breathed new life into Disney Animation when they introduced us to “gadgets and gizmos a plenty” and “whosits and whatsits” galore in their score for The Little Mermaid. The song Under the Sea, won the duo their first Academy Award.
The second time I cried during Alan Menken’s D23 performance was when he sang Part of Your World.
After The Little Mermaid, the duo wrote the score for Beauty and the Beast. We can forever thank them for teaching children across the globe the proper term for spitting.
The team was working on Aladdin when Howard Ashman died in 1991.
After his partner’s death, Alan Menken continued composing for Disney and wrote the songs for Pocohantes, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Tangled.
but wait! there’s more.
His work for Disney Animation is only part of Alan Menken’s impressive résumé. He also worked on the Disney live action films Newsies and Enchanted. Broadway works include adaptations from the films Newsies, Little Shop of Horrors, Sister Act, and Aladdin. And the list goes on and on.
His list of awards is even longer. He has won Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Grammy Awards, and even a Tony. On more than one occasion, his songs competed with each other for an award.
Thank you, Alan Menken, for all the joy you bring us through your music.