Menken, Fierstein transform ‘Newsies’ for stage
NEW YORK (AP) - Alan Menken’s incredible success as a composer has earned him eight Academy Awards, 10 Grammy Awards, seven Golden Globes and one Razzie.
Yes, shamefully, a Razzie.
He earned that embarrassing award for the song “High Times, Hard Times” from the 1992 film “Newsies,” a rare disappointment in a career with massive hits such as “Under the Sea” and “A Whole New World,” not to mention soundtracks for “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” and “Pocahontas.”
Now he’s getting a do-over.
“It’s my baby. I loved the material, I loved working on it. And if it’s going to get redone, I want to be the one to do it,” Menken said. “Better me than somebody else.”
The Disney-backed musical will make its debut this fall at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J. Performances begin Sept. 15, with an official opening set for Sept. 25. Menken said the stage version is “more new than old.”
“All the tent-pole songs are there, carrying the banner _ `Santa Fe,’ `The World Will Know,’ `Carrying the Banner,’ `Seize the Day,’ `King of New York,’” Menken said. “All the strongest, main songs that were in the movie are there. What we’ve done is sometimes reposition them and added some plot elements to really help tell the story.”
The musical and book tell the story of child newspaper sellers in turn-of-the-century New York who go on strike when newspapers raise the distribution price of each paper. The film, starring Christian Bale, Bill Pullman, Robert Duvall and Ann-Margret, did poorly at the box office but has become something of a cult hit of late.
“In many respects, it’s a richer process than we ever went through before. When we were doing `Newsies’ the first time, it was an incredibly stressed time for me,” he said.
Menken, who recently earned his 19th Oscar nomination for writing the music for the song “I See the Light” from the animated film “Tangled,” said working with Fierstein, a four-time Tony Award winner, has been a blast.
“He’s come on with a confidence that I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed in a book writer,” Menken said. “Harvey is a bit of a freight train. When Harvey says he’ll do something, he does it. And really, really fast _ almost shockingly fast.”
In addition to “Newsies” and the upcoming Broadway musical “Sister Act,” Menken has been working on helping turn the 1992 animated hit “Aladdin” into a stage musical. A reworked score spearheaded by Menken and with a new book by Chad Beguelin will premiere at The 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle in July.
As for “Newsies,” there will be one notable difference between the film and musical: That song “High Times, Hard Times,” which earned Menken that notorious Razzie in 1992?