"Howard Sings Ashman" CDs Will Feature Demos From Smile, Babe, Mermaid and More

By Kenneth Jones
Playbill
10 Oct 2008

PS Classics, the label dedicated to the heritage of Broadway and American popular song, has announced details of its Nov. 11 release of "Howard Sings Ashman" — and show tune fans will have a lot to smile about.

The release, the latest entry in PS Classics' ongoing Songwriter Series, will be a two-CD affair, with the second disc devoted entirely to 15 demos from Ashman's 1986 Broadway collaboration with Marvin Hamlisch, Smile. The short-lived show about a beauty pageant has a cult following, despite the fact that it never got a cast album.

The Smile tracks, never before released, date from a studio demo by Ashman and Hamlisch recorded in May 1986, six months before the show's Broadway run.

PS Classics also revealed that the first disc — 18 tracks — will include Ashman's collaborations with Alan Menken from "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and "The Little Mermaid," as well as individual tracks from Diamonds (with Jonathan Sheffer) and from Babe, Ashman and Menken's unfinished musical on the life of Babe Ruth.
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The discs will feature performances by the late Grammy, Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning lyricist, who was also a librettist and a director.

"Howard Sings Ashman" is being prepared with the assistance and cooperation of Howard Ashman's sister, Sarah Ashman Gillespie, and his life partner, Bill Lauch.

When the Disney films "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast" received rave reviews for their crafty, Broadway-quality songs by Ashman and composer Alan Menken (who already had a musical stage hit with Little Shop of Horrors), fans of show tunes pricked up their ears and wondered if the team would bring their talents to the musical stage again. Ashman's career was cut short by complication from AIDS in 1991; he did not live to see Broadway stage versions of Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.

In addition to being an Academy Award-winning lyricist, Ashman was artistic director of the WPA Theatre in New York City and a librettist (Broadway's Smile), director (Smile and Little Shop) and film producer ("Beauty and the Beast," "The Little Mermaid"). He was born in Baltimore.
Playbill News: "Howard Sings Ashman" CDs Will Feature Demos From Smile, Babe, Mermaid and More