Alan Menken, 8-time Oscar winner, seeks first Tony Award
Web linksMore theater reviews
With eight Academy Awards won for his musical contributions to Disney films, New Rochelle native Alan Menken has collected more Oscars than any other living person — but he never has won a Tony Award for his Broadway scores.
At the June 10 Tony Awards ceremony, to be broadcast on CBS, Tony voters can rectify that for Menken, who says he’s “thrilled” to receive a 2012 nomination for Best Original Score for "Newsies.” The musical is the Broadway adaptation of the 1992 movie that he scored, but the award-winning composer says he didn’t figure the movie would amount to much more beyond the theatrical release.
“None of us anticipated we’d ever see any further version of ‘Newsies’ being done,” says Menken, 62. “But there was this generation of kids who adopted this movie. There was a passionate, secret love of so many kids who are now grown to be adults.”
Even if he returns to northern Westchester, where he now lives, without a Tony following this weekend’s ceremony, Menken says he’s “grateful and so happy” for his success. After all, those 19 Academy Award nominations and eight Oscar trophies were no accident. Asked if it’s surreal to hold the record for most Oscars among living recipients, Menken laughs, admits it is with little more than a “yeah” and awaits the next question.
Much like it was for “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid” — for which he won two Oscars apiece — Menken’s task with “Newsies” was modifying his original cinematic score to the Broadway stage.
“Whether it’s songs for a musical movie or a stage musical, the craft is the same: You have to push the story forward through song,” he says. “You have to keep the audience engaged. You have to come up with an interesting musical conceit to enlist people in it and attach people in a way that has them intrigued.”
Menken also has a connection to another 2012 Tony category — he wrote the score for “Leap of Faith,” which is nominated for Best Musical.
"It's been a very unique and interesting season for me, with two shows [nominated]," he said. "The headline for me is I love both of the shows. I love the people I work with. I'm thrilled to be recognized. For me, the true reward is the relationships."
They’re the kinds of relationships Menken might not have had as a student at New Rochelle High School. “I was a shrimpy kid and kind of a nerd,” he says. “I was concert master of the school orchestra, and president of the chess club. I got beat up more than I care to remember.”
He preferred his musical experiences at New York University, where he started in premed but found his calling with continued exposure to musical theater. “I knew I didn’t want to make a living as a dentist,” he says.
Working out of his home in northern Westchester County for almost 20 years, Menken says life in “horse country” allows him to focus on his work. “When it’s not overrun with people, it’s so beautiful,” he says. “It’s such a beautiful haven here.”