The First Act
BY Brandon Voss
January 04 2008 1:00 AM ET
Have you ever felt stifled or censored by Disney?
certainly limits to what you can do. The cruelty of your
humor has to be tempered with the fact that
it’s going to reach the entire Disney audience,
and we’ve all had the experience of what trouble you
can get in. You could say that [Beauty and the
Beast’s] Gaston is making fun of this
particularly dumb guy, but there are other aspects of
Gaston, that Howard was reaching at, that certain people are
going to have fun with but other people are going to
have no idea are in there -- if you know what I mean.
At the same time, when we wrote “Arabian
Nights” at the top of Aladdin and were
making fun of Arab stereotypes, that was clearly
something we had to soften. When we were writing Home on
the Range and looking for ways to make our outlaw more fun,
Glenn and I had a lot of fat [-person] jokes in there,
and they had to go.
Are you ever able to explore your darker side?
Yeah, I certainly
have edgier work. Leap of Faith is edgier,
Sister Act [the Musical] is somewhat edgier. I
thought Little Shop of Horrors was really edgy.
I thought kids were going to be scared—all the
blood, the severed limbs being fed—and of course it
became a favorite of young audiences. I don’t
usually do things that succeed by shock value, but it
doesn’t come out of any strict moral code on my part.
It just doesn’t resonate for me emotionally. I really
like telling stories. The times when art is most
significant to me is when things are really raw and
painful -- when they can speak to you and either give you
solace or insight. Shock value stuff doesn’t do that
When are Sister Act and Leap of Faith
expected to hit Broadway?
Sister Act played in Los Angeles about a year ago and
then Atlanta last winter. We’re retooling it,
and it’s slated to have a production in London
next fall. Leap of Faith is having workshops this
spring, will go into production late in ’08,
and come to Broadway in spring of ’09. But
it’s very hard to predict anything.
Until then, what should I see if The Little
Mermaid is sold-out?
Hairspray, Spring Awakening, Young
Frankenstein sight unseen, Rent for the
10th time. But to be honest, I don’t see a lot
of musicals. I live up here in the sticks of northern
Westchester [County, outside New York City] -- which I
really like -- except it becomes difficult for me to
make it into the city. I’m very involved with
my writing and I travel a lot, so I don’t see nearly
as much as I'd like to. I’m always behind.
Finally -- and this might be like Sophie’s choice
-- if you could only pick one, which of your songs would
you want to be remembered for?
Oh, Jesus. I
can’t. Unless you’re going to be the Nazi and
hold a gun to my children’s heads, I
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