Disney legends Alan Menken, Lea Salonga, Jodi Benson, and Paige O’Hara joined guest-host Nina West for a special episode of Stars in the House.
In this episode, the guests discussed their experiences working on their respective Disney films along with their careers on stage. Menken talked about the journeys of composing the songs that have shaped generations of Disney fans while Benson, O’Hara, and Salonga talked about how they have become associated with their Disney princesses over the years and how grateful they all are to be part of this remarkable musical legacy.
Menken talked about how he was coping with the prolonged quarantine by keeping busy with a lot of projects and how much he enjoys writing music for stage and screen because he gets to explore different stories and characters. He reminisced on his long collaboration with the late Howard Ashman with whom he worked on the musical Little Shop of Horrors as well as the Disney films, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin.
Menken and West also discussed the evolution of the Disney princess “I Want” song and the influence of “Somewhere that’s Green” from Little Shop. Menken likewise affirmed that working on Disney projects has become a kind of safe space for him in all the chaos. He is enjoying collaborating with other artists like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Pasek & Paul on the live-action adaptations of the Disney films, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.
Benson (the voice of Ariel from The Little Mermaid) talked about the transition from singing for the theater to lending her voice to an animated character. She also reminisced on working with Ashman for the short-lived Broadway musical, Smile. She said she sings her iconic song, “Part of Your World” two to three times a week and she is grateful for the incredible journey of becoming a Disney princess.
O’Hara (the voice of Belle from Beauty and the Beast) also shared fond memories of working with Menken on her songs and told stories of how people still recognize her voice as that of Belle’s. She talked about how singing the “Belle (Reprise)” was her Sound of Music moment. It was also revealed that O’Hara is a talented painter and she is currently painting the different Disney princesses as a passion project.
Salonga (the singing voice of Jasmine from Aladdin and the title character from Mulan) shared stories about her career on Broadway and how the experience also led to the opportunities to play two Disney princesses. She also gave amusing stories about her audition for Jasmine and how Menken tested her vocal range by making her sing “Part of Your World” in higher and higher keys. She expressed her profound gratitude for being a part of the Disney legacy and her hopes that the Disney songs will continue to inspire new generations of talented artists to pursue their dreams.
Menken concluded the special with an epic Disney medley of his compositions featuring the following songs: “Part of Your World” (The Little Mermaid), “The King of New York” (Newsies), “Colors of the Wind” (Pocahontas), “Under the Sea” (The Little Mermaid), “Be Our Guest” (Beauty and the Beast), “Friend Like Me” (Aladdin), “Go the Distance” (Hercules), “I See the Light” (Tangled), “That’s How You Know” (Enchanted), “Santa Fe” (Newsies), “Out There” (Hunchback of Notre Dame), “Beauty and the Beast” (Beauty and the Beast), and “A Whole New World” (Aladdin).
Stars in the House is a series of daily livestreamed concerts and conversations with Broadway stars hosted by Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley as a regular fundraiser for The Actors Fund. Previous memorable reunions were with the original Broadway cast of RENT and the voice cast of the Disney animated film Hercules.
Each episode is a combination of music, community, and education, the last part featuring consultations with CBS Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook. The series was launched in March and will continue until Broadway reopens. As of January 23, Stars in the House has raised over $667, 000 for The Actors Fund.
Watch the whole special below: