James Valcq (born 1963 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) is an American musical theatre composer, lyricist, and librettist. 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 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 about 250 productions to date, not only in every major American city but in Canada, Germany, and South Korea as well. In August 2008 The Spitfire Grill will have its UK premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 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 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.