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Dance, little “Sister”

January 24, 2013
tags: ,

Published in Metro

Composer Alan Menken is the man behind the beloved music in “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” and “Pocahontas.” Despite his success with those scores, he decided to try a new style for a recent project: disco.

“I always want every musical that I write to have its own unique voice,” says Menken, who won a Tony for “Newsies” on Broadway last year.

So for “Sister Act” the musical, he decided to depart from the sound of the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg flick. The storyline, about a singer who disguises as a nun after witnessing a mob murder, is the same.

“Disco is so stylized and entertainment-oriented, and in its own way kind of glossy and glitzy,” explains the composer. “And it’s dramatically effective because it’s such a strong contrast to the music of the convent and the world of the nuns.”

Menken’s job starts during the very early phases of a show’s production.

“We are pivotally involved in the creation of the script,” he says. “As a song writer, I look at the very basic story and say, ‘How will the score function in this musical? Is it ironic? Is it defining a period or a tone?’”

Menken’s goal is that film and theatergoers instinctively understand the purpose of a show’s music, and the emotions and ideas each song conveys.

“We want to make sure that every song moment we’ve chosen is pushing the story forward,” he says.

‘Hunchback’ on the horizon

Menken’s wrapped up “Sister Act” but he’s staying busy: The morning before his Metro interview, he worked on a song for coming musical “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” with lyricist Stephen Schwartz (of “Godspell” and “Wicked” fame). Menken is also doing the stage version of “Aladdin,” on next Broadway season.

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