Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ashman Talks Ashman: Sarah Ashman Gillespie in the MCL

Sarah Ashman and Howard Ashman in 1983
Last week, I posted a birthday tribute to Howard Ashman, the late writer and lyricist who, with composer Alan Menken, wrote some of the all-time great Disney songs for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. This week, I'm happy to share part one of my conversation with Howard's sister, Sarah Ashman Gillespie, who manages the website Howard Ashman: Part of His World, a celebration of her brother's life and legacy.

Howard Ashman's story is one of both great achievement and unfulfilled promise. A talented wordsmith with a passion for theater, he found success off-Broadway writing and directing the musical Little Shop of Horrors and later adapting the screenplay for the popular Frank Oz-directed film version. Success on Broadway eluded him, however. Smile, a comical and sentimental send-up of teen beauty pageants that he wrote with composer Marvin Hamlisch, flopped and closed at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in early 1987 after only 48 performances.

Ashman's talent would not be denied, however. When Disney came calling in the late 1980s, he and Menken found themselves at ground zero of perhaps the biggest movie studio comeback in Hollywood history and became one of the driving forces behind Disney's animation renaissance. Ashman's death from AIDS in 1991, months before the release of Beauty and the Beast, is one of the great tragedies in entertainment. He was at his creative peak when he passed away, and although the body of work he left behind was impressive and beloved, we are left wondering what musical and theatrical magic might have happened had he lived.

In part one of my interview with Sarah, she talks about the origins of her website, Howard's early career and how he was pursued by Disney. Enjoy!

The Mouse Castle Lounge can also be heard on iTunes and Stitcher.

Related: Sarah Ashman Gillespie, Part Two
             Sarah Ashman Gillespie, Part Three

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