I’m James Long, a comedy writer & theatre writer/composer with several notable works including Disappearing Wonderful (2014), and Housemates (2019). I studied a BA in music at The University of York from 2009 to 2012, and an MA in Musical Theatre Writing & Composition at Goldsmiths from 2013 to 2014.
I love musical theatre, and have been writing it since I was about 13 – that’s over 15 years. As a child and teen, I learned the piano to grade 8 but I was always more interested in composition. Especially when it came to musical theatre.
It’s hard to say any one reason why, but I explain it by saying if there was no such medium, and Mamma Rose never sung ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ in Gypsy, where else would we find a song with that kind of dramatic significance? Songs for characters are key to musical theatre, and without the art form, music would be so much poorer. There’s the old adage: when you can’t say something, sing it.
In my musical theatre writing, my aim is to use music only where necessary, and always to move the plot forward in some way – even if it’s just a character realisation. As a composer, I try to I write memorable tunes above all else. I tend to arrange for two pianos, or for a small ensemble. My latest show, Skydive, is for piano and string quartet.
There’s a huge crossover in my work between musical theatre and comedy. I’ve always thought comedy and songs are closely linked (particularly so in comedy songs!). I find a great cohesion between the careful shaping of a lyric or melody, and the payoff of a joke. All involve careful crafting and conservative use of syllables/notes.
As a kid I loved comedy. Making people laugh was music as real as sitting at the piano, and I knew I wanted to do more with it. But comedy is really something you have to discover and learn for yourself. There are no ‘comedy lessons’, and you have to learn from the people you love who are doing it.
It was at university I finally started making ‘comedy notes’. Funny things that happened to me, or that I thought of throughout the day. These first tentative steps became a whole plethora of . . . woeful, awkward experiences. But, as with any creativity, they were an essential part of the learning process. More recent comedy notes form the backbone of my best projects to date.
Anyone who says writing comedy is anything other than both a skill and an art form probably hasn’t written much of it. I now know only too well that to it properly takes years of practice, and learning curves like there’s no tomorrow. So, it’s an art form as real as any other; it just so happens that a disproportionate amount of our sentences end with ‘boobs’ and ‘arse’.
Comedy is evident in all of my early projects; Dash of Lime, my first musical, was a comedy and so was Disappearing Wonderful.
If you’re interested in any of my work, or perhaps collaborating on, or commissioning new work, please feel free to get in touch with me.