Ever heard the song “Kiss the Girl”? How about “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”? Or “Be Our Guest”? These songs, along with many others, were written by two of the most amazing composers in the world – Alan Menken and Richard Sherman. They are responsible for some of the most memorable songs ever written, let alone the best Disney songs. And, for one night only, they will be performing together, live on stage in “The Disney Songbook.”
“It’s a really powerful shared experience. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was also a pleasant kind of ego trip, because everything I’m doing up there, they’re reacting so exuberantly to,” said Menken. “It’s just great fun.”
D23 is a Disney run fan club, the official fan club of the company. Every two years, D23 puts on a convention to bring together all of the fans who want to get a little deeper in their fandom, with pin trading, exclusive panel discussions, autograph signings, movie screenings and special events like this one. D23 Expo is the ultimate experience for any Disney fan.
“The experience I have in general when I perform is like D23 but not to that extent,” said Menken. “It’s interesting. I do a lot of performing with young audiences and they just go over the top, they go crazy – it’s wonderful. [And] with the D23 audience – they’re there to love it and have a great time. Nobody’s sitting there with their arms folded saying, ‘Show me.’ There is something very special about that association and the Disney fans in particular.”
With a body of work that extends from the late 1980s right up to current projects in development, Menken has composed scores for films such as “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Pocahontas” and “Beauty and the Beast,” among many others. His songs have become part of Disney lore, providing fans with those songs that never leave the iPod, songs that are played on shuffle in an endless loop on the way down to Disneyland. And these songs and scores have earned Menken eight Academy Awards, more wins than any other living person.
Accompanying Menken is Richard M. Sherman. One of the legendary Sherman Brothers, Richard and his brother, Robert B. Sherman, wrote over 200 songs for 27 films and 24 television productions for Disney. These include “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from “Mary Poppins,” “Lets Get Together” from “The Parent Trap,” and “Bear Necessities” from “The Jungle Book” (which just opened to rave reviews as a stage musical in Chicago this June – a project personally overseen by Sherman). In addition to writing some of the most memorable film music, the Sherman Brothers wrote much of the music for the Disney parks, including “Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room,” “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” from the Carousel of Progress, “One Little Spark” from Journey Into Imagination (the Figment ride in Walt Disney World) and even the most notorious song of all, “It’s a Small World.”
“I come from a very musical family,” said Sherman, “and my father [Al Sherman] was a very successful songwriter back in the ’20s and ’30s. My dad wrote very catchy tunes and I used to listen to all his songs and I loved the way he wrote melodies. They really grabbed hold of you and they were very definitely something you could take with you. I write fun songs that are kind of original as they possibly can be with catchy little phrases in them and the lyrics are very much part of the song.
“So [brother and writing partner Bob] and I worked very hard to get the right lyric, the right words, so that the melodies can soar.”
The two will be on stage at the D23 Expo 2013 on Saturday night. They will perform some of the most famous songs in their repertoire, as well as some more obscure selections, some songs which didn’t make it into the final cut of the film.
“It’s always a challenge picking out just the right material for an audience, and we did have some requests from our hosts. The way they’ve structured it makes it somewhat easy to decide on songs,” said Menken.
“The same thing with me, I think,” Sherman continued. “You know we have so many to choose from, and what we try to do is a potpourri – not a complete rundown of everything in one particular film, but just sort of a sampling of the various things over the years that I did. It was kind of a fun thing, like looking at all my children and seeing which ones am I going to take on the outing.”