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Meet Aisle Say on The Square’s David Spencer

Meet Aisle Say on The Square’s David Spencer

I’ve been asked to introduce myself to you TSC readin’ goodfolk, so I’ll start with this: I’ve been in the musicals game (writin’ ’em) for a long time; and in the drama critic game (writin’ about ’em, and about straight plays too) for a long time; and since the new millennium, I’ve devoted a large portion of my life to teaching the craft of musical theatre writing (mostly at the BMI Lehman Egel Musical Theatre Workshop, where I’m on the Steering Committee and faculty).

Every writer will have a different philosophy, but for me, the über job of drama criticism has always been more to educate than to provide consumer advocacy (if the balance is right, I tend to think the first encompasses the second anyway). Oh, I’ll tell you my feelings about something (usually), but more germane is providing a perspective on why things work and why things don’t; what I really want to do is give the reader who’d like one, a key to enhanced perception; so that in time, he can attend a theatrical offering, and himself have insight beyond personal likes and dislikes; to have that breakthrough moment where the mechanism becomes clear; because I think such understanding expands the range of likes—and makes even dislikes richer and more worthwhile experiences. That way, when you love something, you can marvel at its magic, and know why you do; and when you hate something, you’ll be able to extrapolate where the mechanism malfunctions. Either way the takeaway is synapses firing and spirited further thought, along with perhaps debate and discussion. And that’s what I want for you. Not just live theatre, but theatre that’s alive in you.

That being the goal, once in a while I’ll write long. As with this first article, below. But I promise to keep it interesting. Bear with me.

I’ve been webmaster and principal NYC critic for Aisle Say, first theatre review zine on the web, for 20 years; but because life and priorities change over two decades, and on my own it’s harder to be as timely as I used to be, TSC’s stalwart editor, my good friend Suzanna Bowling, is allowing me to use this as a venue as well.

To conclude: you can read my credits in my bio (link here); I’ll just say briefly that I’ve been produced as composer-lyricist and lyricist-librettist; that I’ve had an idiosyncratic career, hedging here and there into the mainstream; that I’ve written two shows with Alan Menken (one of which, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, had its world premiere in Montreal last Summer; and you should be hearing more about it soon), two for Theatreworks/USA, one for the Public, bunch of staged readings, an original licensed TV tie-in novel in which I take enough pride to keep active in my bio (TV fanboy, geekcolors flyin’ high), and a book on musical theatre writing, that has stayed stubbornly in print for close to 12 years (and no, it’s not self-published). Whatever else is true, I’ve managed to hang in. If you might do the same, as I expound once in a while, well…it doesn’t, for a critic, get more gratifying than that.

And here we go:


David Spencer is an award-winning composer-lyricist, lyricist-librettist, author and musical theatre teacher. He has written music and lyrics for the Richard Rodgers Development Award-winning musical The Fabulist, which also contributed to his winning a Kleban lyrics award and several Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation grants. He is also lyricist-librettist for two musicals with composer Alan Menken: Weird Romance (WPA 1992, York 2004) and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, which had its sold out, extended world premiere in Montreal in Summer 2015; cast album release soon. He made his professional debut in 1984 with the English Adaptation of La Bohéme at the Public Theatre; and he has since written music and lyrics for Theatreworks/USA’s all-new, award-winning Young Audience versions of The Phantom of the Opera (1996) and Les Misérables (1999) (book and direction for both by Rob Barron). Currently he is writing book, music and lyrics for a musical based on the iconic Russian novel The Golden Calf. Spencer’s published books are the Alien Nation novel Passing Fancy (Pocket, 1994), The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide (Heinemann, 2005, a regularly reprinted industry standard) and the script of Weird Romance (Samuel French, 1993). He is on faculty and teaches at the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop and has taught at HB Studio, the Workshop Studio Theater and Goldsmith’s College in London. His primary professional affiliations are BMI, The Dramatists Guild and The International Association of Media Tie-in Writers.

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