Prolific and legendary Disney songwriters Richard Sherman and Alan Menken fulfilled every promise they made leading up to their planned 2013 D23 Expo “Disney Songbook” concert. It was intimate, exclusive, exciting, touching, and simply a once-in-a-lifetime event that proved to be the highlight of the entire weekend.
Sherman and Menken literally wrote Disney’s famous songbook. That is, nearly every hugely popular and memorable song from a Disney film or theme park was penned by one of these two men, along with Richard’s late brother Robert. And this concert was an opportunity for each of them to perform practically every one of them over the course of two-and-a-half hours on the evening of August 10, 2013 that can most succinctly be described as epic.
Beginning all the way back with Annette Funicello’s “Tall Paul,” the song that launched the Sherman brothers’ career, and continuing through medleys and stories spanning many decades of Disney history, from live action to animation to Broadway, this performance was any fan’s dream come true.
The show was split into two halves, first featuring Sherman playing the older selections, then Menken taking the stage for more recent successful songs from the past 30 years, culminating in an unforgettable duet between the two.
Video: Full Richard Sherman Disney Songbook concert performance
Video: Full Alan Menken Disney Songbook concert performance
Among the many highlights from the first half were Sherman’s stories of working with Walt Disney directly – developing the theme to the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Carousel of Progress as well as playing “Feed the Birds” regularly at Walt’s frequent requests.
Video: Feed the Birds performed by Richard Sherman at the 2013 D23 Expo
Sherman was even surprised when moderator Tim O’Day brought out actors Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak as the concert turned to “Mary Poppins” and the upcoming “Saving Mr. Banks” film, which stars those actors as the Sherman brothers. The trio launched into “Spoonful of Sugar,” the second piano performance by these three at the D23 Expo that day.
Video: Spoonful of Sugar performed by Richard Sherman, Jason Schwartzman, BJ Novak
It was an impressive showing of sheer love for Disney as 85-year-old Richard Sherman never once faltered while flawlessly playing so many timeless tunes.
But Sherman had played similar sets as this for Disney fans before. It was Alan Menken whom many in attendance were particularly looking forward to seeing, as he’d only played for a similar audience once before, at last year’s Destination D event. No one expected the incredibly thorough and glorious lineup of songs Menken brought with him, essentially his entire career in a large stack of music sheets.
As the crowd cheered loudly between medleys of favorites from “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” all the way up to “Tangled,” Menken frequently referred to his sheet music stack, noting he had a lot to get through. But despite the show running an hour over its scheduled time, Menken did not miss a beat, though at one point he did joke that fans would get to see him have a stroke live on stage out of sheer exhaustion from performing so many upbeat, lively, and particularly wordy songs.
Video: Little Mermaid medley performed by Alan Menken
Video: Aladdin medley performed by Alan Menken
Video: Tangled medley performed by Alan Menken
Standout moments included what Menken believed to be his first-ever public performance of “Human Again” from the stage version of “Beauty and the Beast,” a difficult song for any performer to sing, but Menken plowed through it with relative ease.
Menken didn’t brush off any unsuccessful movies he’d been part of, showing he had a passion for all of his works, not only the box office successes. Whether it was a smash hit like “Enchanted,” a flop like “Home on the Range,” or a sleeper hit like “Newsies,” Menken was proud to be a part of that world.
And in the end, Sherman and Menken took the stage together to perform two “worldly” songs they each had written, first Menken launching into “A Whole New World,” followed by a duet (and singalong) of “it’s a small world” – arguably the world’s catchiest and most infectious song, for better or for worse.
Video: it’s a small world performed by Alan Menken and Richard Sherman
And just after 9pm on that Saturday night, fans left the D23 Expo Arena floored by the incredible event they had just witnessed, having shed tears, laughed loudly, and smiled brightly for a performance that surely would have made Walt Disney proud. If there was one single reason to attend the 2013 D23 Expo, the Disney Songbook concert was it.
More photos from the Disney Songbook concert with Richard Sherman and Alan Menken: