Alan Menken brings his musical version of Duddy Kravitz back to Montreal

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Menken, the Tony- and Oscar-winning composer of numerous Disney musicals will be presenting a revamped musical version of  the late Mordecai Richtler’s classic novel.

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Alan Menken, in conjunction with his long term writer and lyricist David Spencer, has produced a musical version of the story of one of Montreal. Canada’s favorite sons, Duddy Kravitz , immortalized by the 1959 novel,  “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, ” by  Mordecai Richtler  which was adapted for the  film theater, released in 1974, with Richard Dreyfus  taking the lead role. Now Menken’s updated  musical version will be hitting Montreal,   running for three weeks at the Segal Centre in the  city, between  June the 7th to the 28th in 2015, with Austin Pendleton directing. Pendleton originally adapted “The Apprenticeship” to a musical format in 1987 for the New York stage, although after some fairly indifferent reviews after the show debuted in The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it was put in mothballs till now.

Alan Menken’s relationship with Duddy Kravitz goes back to roughly the same time,  having written the original version of the musical  score for the musical. In a recent interview, David Spencer stated that he has now totally rewritten the “The Apprenticeship”, with just “a handful” of songs remaining from the original version which stuttered to a halt in  Philadelphia version.

“Quite literally, and in every practical and artistic sense, the Philadelphia version had become another show with the same title.” Spencer summed up. Menken and Spencer admitted that they had stuck  with the show for all these years because it was  one of those rare stories that got under their skin  and they never doubted how special the show is. “In spite of everything, putting Duddy Kravitz in the drawer and walking away was never an option.” The duo admitted.

 

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Dreyfuss in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1959)

Alan Menken  graduated from New York University’s Steinhardt School, later going on to attend the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop in New York for musical theatre composers, lyricists and librettists. During his years of study Menken subsidized his  living expenses by performing in local clubs, as well as working as a composer of jingles and, accompanying some of New York’s leading singers on the piano.

Alan Menken’s first professional assignment came in 1979, working on the Off-Broadway 1979 of the play God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, for the WPA Theatre.  He was to work Off-Broadway again with the WPA Theatre,  in  their 1982 musical Little Shop of Horrors, for which he was awarded a Drama Desk Award nomination. “Little Shop”  was later adapted to become a successful Broadway show and later successfully transferred to the cinema.

During the Eighties, Alan Menken  was particularly active in the theater,  which is what including including Little Shop of Horrors, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Real Life Funnies, Atina: Evil Queen of the Galaxy as well as other contributions to numerous theatrical revues.

For his  work in the musical theatre during the 80s and 90s Menken was a recipient of a BMI Career Achievement Award. Particularly outstanding was Menken’s musical, “A Christmas Carol”,  based on the Charles Dickens classic which made its  debut at the Madison Square Garden’s Paramount Theater just  in time for Christmas 1994 .

The show proved to be mostly an outstanding success and has gone on to become an annual New York holiday event. During the early 1990s Alan Menken began his long-running working relationship with Walt Disney Pictures which has now continued for more than 20 years.

During this time Menken has been involved in the production of music scores for a very large number of films for the studios, including Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, Home on the Range The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame,  and Tangled. Alan Menken has been the recipient of eight Academy Awards, for each for Best Original Score and Best Original Song, placing him in second place  for Oscar winners in the music composition category behind the late Alfred Newman.

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