Archive for September 1st, 2011

by Dennis Polifroni
(U.S.A. 1986 94mins) DVD/Blu-Ray)
“Downtown. Where your life’s a joke.”
p. David Geffen d. Frank Oz w. Howard Ashman lyrics. Howard Ashmanm. Alan Menken score. Miles Goodman p. Robert Paynter e. John Jympsen art. Steve Spence, Roy Walker
Rick Moranis (Seymour Krelborne), Ellen Green (Audrey), Vincent Gardenia (Mr. Mushnik), Steve Martin (Orin Scrivello, DDS), Tichina Arnold (Ronette), Michelle Weeks (Shirelle),Tisha Campbell (Crystal), Jim Belushi (Patrick Martin), Christopher Guest (Florist Customer), Miriam Margoyles (Nurse), Bill Murray (Arthur Denton), John Candy (Wink Wilkenson),Levi Stubbs (voice of Audrey II)
It’s really hard to believe that prior to THE LITTLE MERMAID anyone knew who the hell Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were. Starting with that little gem based on the Hans Christian Anderson story, this duo song-writing team took home six consecutive Oscars in the categories of Best Original Song and Music Score for their work on three back-to-back Disney animated films (THE LITTLE MERMAID, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and ALADDIN) and, in one glorious foul swoop, made themselves a household name. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, basically, ushered in a whole new interest in the film musical and reminded everyone seeing these films what a Broadway show was like without ever having to step foot near Times Square. They borrowed from many (in the case of BEAST it was Busby Berkeley) and turned what they liked so much about popular music into their own. Big band jazz (ALADDIN), Karen Carpenter (THE LITTLE MERMAID) and hints of Max Steiner (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST) were all evident in their work and it had viewers from around the world not only embracing every phrase, flourish and lyric, but loving the familiarity they brought to each song. Surely, this was a matter of two guys just being in the right place at the right time and giving it everything they got to a company desperate to regain the old glories of the 30’s and 40’s that happened with films like PINOCCHIO, BAMBI and SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS. Two true originals were busting out into the sun-light and two newbies in the music world were born.
Not on your life…
The facts unseen were that Ashman and Menken were not, at all, virgins to the territories of film and stage music. While it’s true they had struggled for years to be heard and appreciated, they DID have earlier success and it just wasn’t on the stage or the screen, it was…


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