David Spencer has worked as composer-lyricist, lyricist-librettist, book author and has been a renowned musical theatre teacher at several prestigious training grounds.
Spencer is lyricist-librettist for the upcoming, musical adaptation of Mordcai Richler’s novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (music also by Alan Menken) to debut at the Segal Centre Richler’s native Montreal in June 2015, under the direction of Austin Pendleton.
Currently in progress are the book, music and lyrics for The Golden Calf, an adaptation of the classic Russian comic novel by Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov, which continues the adventures of roguish con man Ostap Bender (first introduced in their previous novel,
The Twelve Chairs).
Past and Recent Projects:
Spencer made his professional, mainstream debut in 1984 with the English Adaptation and New Lyrics for La Bohème at the Public Theatre, which was directed by Wilford Leach, starred Linda Ronstadt and introduced Patti Cohenour, Howard McGillin and David Carroll.
A winner of the 2000 Kleban Award for excellence in theatre lyrics, Spencer was lyricist to composer Alan Menken, and co-librettist with Alan Brennert, for the 1992 SF musical Weird Romance (Original Cast Album re-released in 2011 by Columbia Masterworks digital on demand; published version by Samuel French); it debuted at the WPA Theatre to become a cult classic, and was revived (and revised) in April 2004 for the Musicals in Mufti series of concert staged readings at the York Theatre.
Spencer also met the challenge of devising music, lyrics and orchestrations for the
Theatreworks/USA Young Audience, all-new versions of The Phantom of the Opera and
Les Misérables (book and direction for both by Rob Barron), which “pushed the sophistication envelope” for YA theatre and toured the United States to audience acclaim and rave reviews. A Cast Album of Phantom—the only show in Theatreworks’ 50-year history to be commercially recorded and their then-bestselling musical ever—was the inaugural release on the on Playbill label, and the composer-lyricist was, in 1996, awarded his first
Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation Commendation Grant for his work on the score. (Though the CD is now out-of-print, it has been supplanted by a preferred recording of the original mini-tour cast. It, a cast album of the Les Misérables mini-tour cast, and most of the other scores mentioned here, can be made available via CD or immediate digital download upon request.)
Spencer’s recent project, The Fabulist, an epic fable of Aesop (book by Stephen Witkin, based on the novel by John Vornholt), was the recipient of a 2002 Richard Rodgers Development Award, which allocates $35,000 toward a series of staged readings in NYC as a first step in a show’s onstage life. Readings of three successive versions were hosted by the York Theatre (artistic director James Morgan) and directed by Sheryl Kaller, (2002-2003); in August, 2005, The Fabulist was presented as the highlight attraction the Village Theatre’s annual New Works Festival of staged readings in WA; and it was showcased at the 2006 Global Search for New Musicals Festival in Cardiff. The Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation also awarded the composer-lyricist his second Commendation Grant for his work on the score plus $10,000 additional project funding (2003), enhancing the third York reading and financing the updated demo.
Spencer has drawn upon his theatrical background to write two books: Passing Fancy, an original novel based on the science fiction/police drama TV series Alien Nation, (Pocket Books 1994); and The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide (Heinemann Drama, 2005), an industry standard that has remained actively in print for nearly a decade. He is currently at work on a sequel. (For endorsements by Larry Gelbart, Richard Maltby, Jr., Alan Menken and others, visit:
For excerpts, visit
He was also a major contributor to two non-fiction anthologies: The Little Black Book of Music (Cassell, 2007) and Tied In about media tie-in writing (IAMTW, 2010; ed. Lee Goldberg).
Spencer is on the teaching faculty of the Lehman Engel-BMI Musical Theatre Workshop. He has also taught at HB Studio, The Workshop Studio Theatre in the US, plus Goldsmith’s College and BML in London. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild.