James is best known as the composer of the Off-Broadway musical The Spitfire Grill (Playwrights Horizons, 2001) which won the Richard Rodgers Production Award administered by the American Academy of Arts and Letters (Stephen Sondheim, chair) and received Best Musical nominations from the Outer Critics Circle and Drama League as well as two Drama Desk nominations. Written with collaborator Fred Alley, Spitfire has been produced nearly 500 times across the United States, in Germany, South Korea, the UK, Japan, and Australia. Also Off-Broadway, James was the composer/author of Zombies from The Beyond, which opened to critical acclaim in 1995.
James has composed scores for Love’s Labour’s Lost at Idaho Shakespeare Festival & Great Lakes Theatre Festival, The Rivals, The Merchant of Venice, and Much Ado About Nothing for Door Shakespeare, Tomas and the Library Lady at Idaho Theatre for Youth, an adaptation of the classic children’s book The Pancake King commissioned by Milwaukee’s Next Act Theatre, The Passage (another collaboration with Fred Alley) & Victory Farm for Northern Sky Theatre, and Anatole for First Stage.
For Third Avenue Playhouse, James adapted and translated the classic opera La Serva Padrona into Maid to Marry, the surprise hit of 2015. He also dramatized the perennial holiday favorite The Birds’ Christmas Carol and created the Irving Berlin cavalcade I Love a Piano. This year saw the world premiere of his adaptation of the 1910 musical MADAME SHERRY for which he also directed, choreographed, and played a featured role. His production of I LOVE A PIANO was named by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel as one of the top ten productions in Wisconsin during 2015.
Broadway credits as conductor and/or musician include Chicago, Flower Drum Song, Cabaret, Scarlet Pimpernel. Other conducting credits: Maurice Sendak’s production of Really Rosie, Candide, Lady in the Dark, South Pacific (Skylight Opera Theatre), and She Loves Me (Indiana Rep). Television appearances include The Today Show (NBC) and Musical Theatre: New Directions (PBS).
Directing credits include Zombies from The Beyond off-Broadway, Northern Sky’s The Spitfire Grill, and TAP’s Almost, Maine, The Glass Menagerie, Tapestries, The 39 Steps, The Drawer Boy, Yuletide Tales, The Fantasticks, Maid to Marry, Steel Magnolias, and I Love a Piano. Favorite acting roles include Cosme in Souvenir (Boise Contemporary Theatre, American Stage Company, & TAP), Feste in Twelfth Night (Door Shakespeare), Ernie in Guys on Ice (Milwaukee Rep), and Pierre in How I Became a Pirate (First Stage Milwaukee). James holds an MFA from New York University Tisch School of the Arts and is a proud member of the American Federation of Musicians & Actors Equity Association.