Alan Menken is the brilliant mind behind some of the incredible film scores we know and love, like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Tangled, the animated version of Beauty And The Beast and now the live-action version of Beauty And The Beast…Like I said, he is brilliant. So, getting to witness Alan perform songs from Beauty And The Beast live was a real treat. More so when he had Josh Gad and Luke Evan join him to perform Gaston.

Alan Menken performance

After that special treat, we had the chance to sit down and chat with Director Bill Condon and Alan Menken.

Bill Condon & Alan Menken

How did you know that Emma was your Belle?

Bill Condon: Well I suspected it right, you know, just seeing her in, you know, in Harry Potter. It seemed like that was a perfect kind of connection to a 21st century Belle. Then we met. I was shooting a movie called Mr. Holmes. We met for an hour and the thing that I loved was how much she loved the original movie and how much she wanted to play the part and she came with a whole pile of books, you know, because I was late, you know, because I was shooting and she was in the middle of reading, you know, so there she was, you know. And then the only question really became she’s never, uh, sung professionally before. She needed to answer that question for herself too. She wanted to go off.

It was Christmas holiday and she said, you know, you go out and get a script together you can send me. We made a handshake deal and Emma’s gonna go off and make a tape and explore her voice, you know, and that was the thing, you know, that kind of scary moment. To me it’s more intimate than taking your clothes when you first hear somebody sing even in a karaoke session. You know, it’s like oh, my god, that’s the sound that comes out of you. You know, we’ve seen that a few time in movies too but, but, for her the voice, her voice is so much — it’s so much a continuation of who she is and how she speaks and there was clearly this kind of sweetness to it and clarity to it that made it seem like it was gonna be a different Belle but I was gonna be a really satisfying one.

Alan Menken: She was a little terrified. I mean no bones about it and we made sure she had her vocal coach. I had Michael Kosarin, my musical director. Bill was actually at the sessions. This is not necessarily it always is but it’s so helpful because she was I think really intimidated by me. I don’t know why. Possibly because of me being the composer I don’t think she wanted to be that vulnerable in front of me so I really hung back, you know, in the control room and in the back of the control room. And we also had a guy named Matt Sullivan who is a music supervisor and just gave, had to give Emma the space to just find her voice and work on it and work on it and she did and Dan was similar. He also was, you know, it was new for both of them.

Director/co-screenwriter Bill Condon on set with Belle (Emma Watson) in Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio's animated classic. The story and characters audiences know and love are brought to life in this stunning cinematic event...a celebration of one of the most beloved stories ever told.

What was the hardest decision to make when you were filming the movie of taking the music out or put in?

Bill Condon: Well we didn’t take anything out, that’s the thing. You know, you look at the animated film and there’s absolutely nothing missing. I would say I’m gonna speak to you for a second that there was a song that was originally conceived for the animated film, put into a reissues of the film and put into the Broadway musical called Human Again, right which is a fantastic song and I think one of your favorites. That was, you know, an early conversation that just felt even in a movie this scale it took two and a half years to do Be Our Guest and Human Again is even bigger in away and that just became something that we had to sacrifice, you know. And so part of the feelings and what happens in Human Again got translated really into Days in the Sun which has a very different feel.

Talk about the challenges of preserving the timeless classic with integrating new things?

Bill Condon: I think again it was always about revealing more. It wasn’t about reinventing, you know. So it was like you start to, you bring it into the real world and you start to ask questions that didn’t matter in the animated film, you know. How did Belle and Maurice wind up in this village. You know, what happened to her mother? How did the Prince become such a dissolute figure that he was worthy of being cursed, you know? And, it’s interesting you start asking those questions and you start to bat around what the possible answers are. Then, you know, you’re making something different but I think for me I could ever really rely on my own kind of reverence for the original film in knowing when you’re changing something or going too far. You know, I hope never to cross that line.

You’ve been in this career for so long. What would you tell your old self knowing what you know now?

Alan Menken: What would I tell? Well, it’s just stuff I’ve learned. I mean one of the most important things I learned in my career was it’s not about me. It’s about the characters and the story and don’t ever fall in love with your own material. Let other people fall in love with it if they want and if you have a note, the best way to address a note is to go okay, and just do it because you’re part of a thing that’s larger than you and the more, that’s what’s great about musical theater also.

The more that you’re recognizing that you’re part is bigger than you and you are a part of that and just stay in the process that you can survive. I mean the most tragic thing and you can see this too is people who go I wrote this wonderful music. I don’t know why it wasn’t a hit. I gotta try. I gotta keep working. I don’t understand why they didn’t like it. It’s just tragic. Don’t try it out. Push it aside and go on to something else. Write another musical and another and another. Just move on and don’t get stuck, you know, being the nurse mate to your own material.

Bill Condon: Very well put.

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On March 17th, rediscover a tale as old as time!