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Alan Menken talks 'Sister Act,' disco divas, earning a living as a songwriter and more




You're unlikely to find a more decorated songwriter anywhere in America than Alan Menken.

Eight Academy Awards. A Tony Award. Eleven Grammy Awards, including one for Song of the Year in 1993 for A Whole New World.

On Tuesday, Menken's musical adaptation of the Whoopi Goldberg flick Sister Act opens at the Straz Center and runs through Sunday. (Click here for details.) In it, Goldberg's character is transformed into a 1970s disco diva in the vein of Donna Summer, and Menken's songs are written in the styule of the Bee Gees, Curtis Mayfield and Barry White.

"I thought disco was the perfect tone," said Menken, whose songwriting partner for the show was lyricist Glenn Slater. "But if you use a style like that you've got to make sure it has a dramatic meaning. For example, the song Take Me to Heaven the first time is about a sexual relationship, and then later it's turned around to have the nuns sing that same song in reference to God. Just using disco as disco wouldn't be particularly effective. The sound you're using has to be dramatically specific to the moment that you're putting it into."

For more of John Fleming's interview with Menken, in which he discusses his historic career and livelihood, click here.

[Last modified: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 3:13pm]


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