Born in Baltimore in 1950, Howard Elliott Ashman (on left) studied at Goddard College and Boston University before receiving his graduate degree from Indiana University. He wrote several plays in the 1970s, and became artistic director of New York’s WPA Theatre in 1977.
In 1979, Ashman partnered up with Alan Mencken to write a musical version of Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. Ashman and Mencken achieved great success with their musical adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors (1982), which won numerous awards and holds the record as the third-longest running off-Broadway show and the highest-earning off-Broadway show in history.
Ashman and Menken wrote the music for Disney’s animated feature films The Little Mermaid (1989), and Beauty and the Beast (1991). Their work earned two Golden Globe Award, two Grammy Awards, and two Oscars.
Ashman succumbed to complications of AIDS at the age of 40 during the production of Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.