Alan Menken is an EGOT winner, so he has enough awards to fill his shelves, and then some. But an award he’s receiving on Feb. 26 figures to be especially meaningful to him – the Howard Ashman Award, named after his longtime collaborator who died of AIDS in 1991.
The award will be presented at GMHC’s ninth annual Cabaret & Howard Ashman Award fundraising event, hosted by Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in New York City. (GMHC was founded in 1982 as Gay Men’s Health Crisis, though the organization used the acronym in a press release about his event.)
Menken and Ashman received their first Oscar nominations for best original song in 1987 for co-writing “Mean Green Mother From Outer Space” for Little Shop of Horrors. Less than a year later, in January 1988, Ashman was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
He kept working until his death in March 1991. Menken and Ashman won the Oscar for best original song in March 1990 for “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid another in March 1992 for the exquisite title song from Beauty and the Beast. Ashman received seven Oscar nominations in all – four of them posthumously. That’s more posthumous nominations than anyone else in Oscar history.
Since Ashman’s death, Menken has two additional Oscars for best original song – for “A Whole New World” from Aladdin (which he co-wrote with Tim Rice) and “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas (which he co-wrote with Stephen Schwartz).
Schwartz will be at the Feb. 26 event to celebrate Menken, along with Claybourne Elder, Adam Jacobs and Arielle Jacobs. Kyle Branzel will be the music director.
Proceeds from the cabaret will directly support GMHC’s lifesaving programs for thousands of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.
Prior Ashman awardees are Lea DeLaria, André De Shields, the late Terrence McNally, Javier Muñoz, Kathy Najimy, Andrew Rannells, Michael Urie, and Tom Viola.
Ashman didn’t live to see the completion of Beauty and the Beast, which was released in November 1991. The film was dedicated to Ashman’s memory, and featured this message after the end credits: “To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice, and a beast his soul. We will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman 1950-1991.”
For information on tickets, go here.
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