Beauty and the Beast: Afternoon Tea with Alan Menken

To celebrate the release of the eagerly anticipated live action movie Beauty and the Beast, we spent the afternoon enjoying tiny sandwiches and sumptuous cakes while being serenaded by multi-Oscar winning composer Alan Menken – no big deal.

At the heart of the Corinthia Hotel in Westminster a throng of media gathered; seating themselves around a stunning grand piano that was decorated with a fine china replica of Mrs Potts, along with the beloved clock Cogsworth and candlestick holder Lumiere. The prosecco flowing and sandwiches served, we eagerly awaited the arrival of Alan Menken – he’s been unsuspectingly on your radar for years. Famed for creating a number of scores for Walt Disney Animation Studios, the composer and pianist has won countless awards (and is the sole person with the most Oscar wins FYI) being responsible for those classic Disney tunes you can’t get out of your head – he’s worked on everything from Enchanted to The Little Mermaid.  

As the room hushed for his entrance, the composer took a seat at the piano, bursting to life with renditions of Aladdin’s Friend Like Me, Hercules’ Go The Distance and of course Beauty and the Beast’s Tale as Old as Time to name a few; demonstrating his vocals that had the audience clapping and tapping their feet – the nostalgia was evident. As well as the recognisable hits, he also treated us to two of the three new tracks he created especially for the live action movie with legendary lyricist Tim Rice.  

We managed to grab the man himself to have a chat about pressures of the remake and the exciting projects he has lined up.

What was it like working on a remake of the original?
“It was great, and it was intimidating. It took a lot of work, my first thought was “What do we have to offer?” other than just doing a live action version. You just don’t want to screw it up. Bill Condon [Director] was a great collaborator, and he gave the movie a sense of France in the 18th century.”

Has the progress in technology changed how you worked on this movie compared with the original? 
“For me, I’ve always worked with digital technology, the ability to do mark-ups on scores has developed so much. And of course the CGI now is just crazy. “

Let’s talk about your two new songs, did you go about trying to make them as classic as the originals? 
“I don’t think about classic, I just think about what’s going to be appropriate for the film and what can we express that would be additive to the movie. There’s so many meetings and discussions to be had before my hands even touch the piano – I did a lot of talking with Bill Condon and Tim Rice, and we found those musical box moments.”

Tell us about your future projects.
“I have a number of films that have been announced – they’ve announced Aladdin and The Little Mermaid. So it seems like a lot of my life is going to be spent expanding previous works! One will also be the sequel to Enchanted, which will be so cool. ” 

Stuffed with sweet treats and high on nostalgia, we left feeling a crazy excitement for the upcoming movie. All the Disney Store goodies will be available from March 17th, the same day as the film release. 

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