James Valcq

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James Valcq (born 1963 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) is an American musical theatre composer, lyricist, & librettist, as well as an actor and arts administrator.


Valcq is among the “new guard” of theatre composers championed by Playwrights Horizons and Ira Weitzman, who co-produced the 2001 Off-Broadway production of The Spitfire Grill for which Valcq composed the score and collaborated on the book with lyricist Fred Alley. The musical won the Richard Rodgers Production Award [1] presented by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Stephen Sondheim chairs the committee that chose the The Spitfire Grill as the winner. The remainder of the group comprised Lynn Ahrens, Jack Beeson, John Guare, Sheldon Harnick, R. W. B. Lewis, Richard Maltby, Jr., and Robert Ward. The Spitfire Grill also received Best Musical nominations from the Outer Critics Circle and Drama League, as well as two Drama Desk nominations. The cast album was released on Triangle Road Records.

Also Off-Broadway, Valcq wrote the book, music, and lyrics for Zombies from The Beyond, which opened to great critical acclaim in 1995. He also co-directed the production. The cast album was released by Original Cast Records. Both The Spitfire Grill and Zombies from The Beyond have become staples in regional theatres, particularly The Spitfire Grill, one of the most frequently performed recent musicals with nearly 500 productions to date, not only in every major American city but in Canada, Germany, South Korea, Australia, Japan, and Singapore as well. The Spitfire Grill had its UK premiere at the 2008 Edinburgh Festival Fringe in a production by the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

Other New York credits include Fallout Follies at the York Theatre, Songs I Never Sang For My Father at the Village Theatre, and The Last Leaf, a collaboration with Tony-nominee Mary Bracken Phillips. Regionally, Valcq composed an adaptation of the classic children’s book The Pancake King commissioned by Milwaukee’s Next Act Theatre, and The Passage (another collaboration with Fred Alley) at American Folklore Theatre in Wisconsin.

His music is often cited as being particularly melodic, strikingly rhythmic, and possessing harmonic and structural subtleties that reveal the composer’s classical training without affecting the accessibility of his material. Also of particular note is that the instruments in Valcq’s orchestrations often seem to become characters in the story.

In addition to orchestrating his own music (a rarity in the theatre), he has created orchestrations of classic musicals for many regional theatres and opera companies. Valcq is also a conductor and musician with Broadway credits including Chicago, Flower Drum Song, Scarlet Pimpernel, and Cabaret.

He holds an MFA from NYU’s Musical Theatre Writing Program and a BFA (on full scholarship) from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Valcq began his professional career as a boy soprano singing in Alban Berg's Wozzeck with the Skylight Comic Opera and Amahl and the Night Visitors several times with the Milwaukee Opera Company. For the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, he sang George Crumb's Ancient Voices of Children under conductor Arthur Weisberg and under Kenneth Schermerhorn for Pro Musica Nova. He also played roles in summer stock, appearing with John Raitt, Karen Morrow, Margaret Whiting, and Dave Madden in various productions. At age 19, he won First Place in the Student Auditions of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. He performed Morton Gould's Hoofer Suite (a ten-minute solo for tap dancer and orchestra) with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra under the baton of JoAnn Falletta. Valcq began composing while still in college, and although he graduated with an applied voice degree, by this time he had abandoned performing to concentrate on composing and conducting. In addition to musicals, Valcq has composed song cycles and choral pieces which have been performed in the U.S. and Europe.

In 2007 Valcq returned to acting, playing Cosme McMoon in Souvenir at Boise Contemporary Theater, a role he has also played at American Stage Theatre and Stage Door Theatre Co. Additional credits include Feste in Twelfth Night and the Friar in Much Ado About Nothing at Door Shakespeare, Ernie in Guys on Ice at Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and Pierre in How I Became a Pirate at First Stage.

In October 2011 Valcq became co-Artistic Director of Third Avenue Playhouse in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin and, with co-Artistic Director Robert Boles, founded the Stage Door Theatre Company, where he's directed productions of The Glass Menagerie, Almost, Maine, and The 39 Steps.

Recent compositions include the musicals Victory Farm (book and lyrics by Emilie Coulson & Katie Dahl) at American Folklore Theatre and Anatole (book and lyrics by Lee Becker & John Maclay), premiering at First Stage.


  1. The New York Times, July 28, 2002
  2. The Wall Street Journal, October 3, 2001
  3. The Chicago Tribune, November 22, 2002
  4. Playbill September 2001, Volume 117, Number 9
  5. Playwrights Horizons Mainstage Bulletin, Fall, 2001
  6. The Miwaukee Journal-Sentinel, September 14, 2002
  7. Ibid., November 21, 2006