The Genie-us of Aladdin’s musical master

Posted 28th March 2024

It promises one lamp, three wishes and infinite possibilities, and this April, Milton Keynes Theatre invites everyone to revel in the wonder of Disney’s breathtaking spectacle, Aladdin.

The magic carpet will touch down for a month-long stay in the new city from April 24.

The exuberant production features iconic music by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice, truly making it a ‘sound’ proposition as much as a visual spectacular!

Superstar composer Alan has accrued a terrific number of accolades for his work on Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and the film version of Aladdin.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to somehow restore the telling of Aladdin the way Howard Ashman and I first envisioned it, and how we wrote it,” Alan said, “The Disney film version is a dazzling action-adventure tale with great animation effects and a handful of songs, some with lyrics by Howard and some by the great Sir Tim Rice. But the original concept that Howard first pitched was a tribute to those old Bob Hope–Bing Crosby ‘Road’ pictures, almost a satire of that kind of Hollywood romantic comedy. And it was also meant to be a celebration of the jazz of the 1930s and ’40s, particularly the music of such breakout stars of the era as Fats Waller and Cab Calloway.”

So when Thomas Schumacher, president and producer of Disney Theatrical, told Menken he was putting together a script of Aladdin to license to amateur theatrical groups, the multiple Oscar-winning musician saw an opportunity to revisit the roots of the Aladdin project.

“Remember, this was years before we even considered developing Aladdin for Broadway,” says Schumacher. “I thought Alan would be way too busy to get involved with our little licensing project, but he really wanted to do it.”

Alan recalled: “They came to me with a script based closely on the movie. It would have been fine, but it wasn’t the musical-comedy homage to popular jazz-era movies that Howard and I first proposed. “So I said, ‘Look, I have a whole treasure trove of existing material that was never used, songs for the main characters and characters that were eliminated in the film, including Aladdin’s three sidekicks, Babkak, Omar and Kassim.’”

Chad Beguelin, who was writing the script, dug into Menken’s trunk and came back with something altogether new.

“As we began to work, it became clear that we were going to need some new songs along with hits from the film and songs that were written but never used,” Alan said, “So I suggested that Chad write the lyrics, since he was writing the new libretto and was already an accomplished, Tony- nominated lyricist in his own right. Chad was absolutely terrific at creating new songs that fit perfectly with those Howard, Tim and I had written for the film.”

For Alan, the journey proved deeply personal, because his beloved musical partner, Howard Ashman, died before the score was complete. He is particularly grateful to have restored ‘Proud of Your Boy’, a song for Aladdin to sing to his fretful mother.

“It was the hardest thing to lose from the film,” Alan admitted, “and not just because the song was lost – I’ve lost a lot of songs in my career – but because we had also lost Howard. That song packs an enormous emotional punch, and men in particular seem to relate to it deeply. So many of us go through a phase when we are disappointing our parents, or we think we are.

“I’m delighted to have had a hand in reshaping Aladdin. I love the show and all the music. But I am especially happy that Howard’s poignant ‘Proud of Your Boy’ once again has pride of place in the story of a boy who finally became all that a mother could wish for in a son.”

Disney’s Aladdin plays at Milton Keynes Theatre, April 24 – May 19.
Make your wishes come true. Book at :

Marvellous Menken
Other Disney animated features that Alan wrote the music for include Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Tangled.

Along with Howard Ashman, Alan also penned the music for the stage show Little Shop of Horrors.

With his eight Academy Award wins, Menken is the second most prolific Oscar winner in a music category and currently holds the record for the most Oscar wins of a living person.