James Cleeve

Musical Director & Composer

"James Cleeve’s smoothly accomplished musical supervision hits advanced standards".
The Guardian, March 2017

I am an experienced Musical Director and Composer who loves to get the best out of people I work with.

I've MD'd numerous theatrical productions, workshops, cabarets and education projects in London and across the UK, including conducting in the Festival Hall and playing in West End pits. I play piano, keyboards, accordion and organ, and also transcribe, arrange and orchestrate.

I'm a member of the Book Music & Lyrics Advanced Composers' Workshop and Mercury Musical Developments.
In December 2018, I was delighted to win the Iris Theatre Xmas Factor Prize with Mike Stocks for our song "Heroes of Christmas, Celebrated Panto Dames" .

I'm represented by Access Artiste Management.

Feel free to get in touch - I'm always on the lookout for new, exciting work!

Featured Musical Direction

Summer 2019

Dillie Keane: Love & Other Bad Ideas

National Tour
Musical Director & Pianist

I had the utter privilege of working with the inimitable Dillie Keane on her solo tour. Not a dry seat left in the house!

May 2019

Alice in Sunderland

National Theatre Studio
Musical Director & Arranger

An amazing couple of weeks working with director Mark Bell and writer Mark Ravenhill on an exciting adaptation of this graphic novel. I was also lucky enough to arrange the beautiful music of Jez Lowe for our talented cast.

Feb 2019

Wendi Peters: Let Me Sing

Live at Zedel
Musical Director

Among my many gigs with the gorgeous Wendi Peters was this special one-off night at the Crazy Coqs.
We spun our way through an hour of our own arrangements of medleys and songs, all telling the story of Wendi's life and career in theatre, TV and on the UK baking scene!
Photo Credit: Martin Smith @ Origin8 Photography

Spring 2018

San Domino

Tristan Bates Theatre
Musical Director, Orchestrator & Vocal Arrangements

An intimate tale of love, loss and the struggle to survive, this show was based on the reality of Mussolini’s persecution of gay men.
I MD'd a 16-strong ensemble of actor-musicians, as well as orchestrating the score and writing all the vocal arrangements.
The Stage were impressed: "Talented musicians, great musical direction, ... and the cast are terrific", as were Musical Theatre Review: "★★★★ - The music impresses from the off".

Summer 2017


Charing Cross Theatre
Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
Musical Director

Following a critically acclaimed European Premiere in Manchester, The Squad of Company Y transferred into London with this really special show written by the Zellnik brothers.
Set in the U.S. Military during WW2, this intimate love story between two men captured the imaginations of audiences and the press alike.
★★★★★ Attitude
★★★★ The Guardian
★★★★ The Stage
★★★★ Daily Express

October 2016

The Sound of Music

National Tour
Associate Musical Director

Associate MD for David Steadman on the BKL National Tour, starring Lucy O'Byrne and Andrew Lancel.
"A cast full of marvellous musical theatre voices ... Is there a stronger score in Broadway history?" (Broadway World)

2012-13, 2015

Top Hat

The Aldwych & National Tour
Keys/Accordion Dep

I was a regular dep on the Olivier Award-winning Top Hat in the West End and on tour, covering the keys and onstage accordion chair.
MD Dan Jackson.


The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Arts Theatre West End
Musical Director

The London revival of Rupert Holmes' Tony Award winning musical transferred from The Landor straight to the West End, playing at the Arts for four weeks.
Time Out ★★★★ "Excellent", WhatsOnStage "spirited musical direction."

Featured Composition

Autumn 2019


Composer & Arranger

Mountview staged the first performance of this fantastic piece after its run in the West End. My compositions for this production have been licenced by Nick Hern Books, and are now offered to all companies performing the play.

Summer 2020

Beginnings - New Commission

London Accordion Orchestra
Composer & Arranger

I was commissioned by LAO to write a new piece for their 40-piece orchestra.

Summer 2019

Noye's Fludde Retold

ENO Baylis

I wrote a series of songs for this project, working with students from several schools. I collated lyrical and melodic material from the young people, and crafted them into songs that were performed at the project's culmination.

December 2018

Heroes of Christmas

Iris Theatre Xmas Factor
Composer & Arranger

Lyricist Mike Stocks and I won the 2018 Iris Theatre Xmas Factor competition with our song Heroes of Christmas, Celebrated Panto Dames. We are now writing a one-man show inspired by this song, intriguingly titled Oh Yes I Am!


MD Credits

2021 Tonight at the Musicals Paul Burton Productions
2021 [title of show] Mountview
2020 Jess Robinson Glastonbury & National Tour
2020 Shoo Shoo Baby National Tour
2019 Cinderella Central Theatre Chatham
2019 Emilia (& Composer) Mountview
2019 Caroline Nin: Piaf Celebrate Voices Festival
2019 Shoo Shoo Baby National Tour
2019 Claire Sweeney: Cabaret P&O Cruises
2019 Dillie Keane: Love & Other Bad Ideas National Tour
2019 Alice in Sunderland (& Arranger) National Theatre Studio
2019 Molly Mahoney: Mischief Crazy Coqs
2019 Liza Pulman Sings Streisand National Tour
2019 Yank! Renuion Concert Cafe de Paris
2019 Wendi Peters: Live at Zedel Crazy Coqs
2019 Swallows & Amazons (& Orchestrator/Arranger) Mountview
2018 Dick Whittington Central Theatre Chatham
2018 East 15 Young Shakespeare Company Shakespeare's Globe
2018 Shoo Shoo Baby National Tour
2018 Claire Sweeney: Cabaret P&O Cruises
2018 San Domino (& Orchestrator/Arranger) Tristan Bates Theatre ★★★★★ The Gay UK
★★★★ Musical Theatre Review & London Theatre 1
2018 Liza Pulman Sings Streisand National Tour
2018 Wendi Peters: Let Me Sing & I'm Happy P&O Cruises
2017 Jack & The Beanstalk Gordon Craig Stevenage
2017 Yank! Charing Cross Theatre ★★★★ Daily Express, Broadway World & WhatsOnStage
2017 Yank! Hope Mill Theatre Manchester ★★★★★ Attitude
★★★★ The Guardian & The Stage
2016 Wendi Peters: Let Me Sing & I'm Happy The Other Palace ★★★★ Musical Theatre Review
2016 New Zealand YSC Shakespeare's Globe
2016 Christine Bovill: Paris Crazy Coqs
2016 Peter Pan Gordon Craig Stevenage
2015 Ushers: The Front of House Musical Arts Theatre West End ★★★★★ The Scotsman
2015 Sleeping Beauty Gordon Craig Stevenage ★★★★ The Stage
2015 Midnight The Other Palace ★★★★★ Musical Theatre Review
2014 San Domino Grimeborn Festival
2014 Shoo Shoo Baby National Tour
2013 A Class Act The Landor ★★★★★ Whats On Stage
2013 Avenue Q Theatre Royal Windsor
2012 The Mystery of Edwin Drood Arts Theatre West End ★★★★ Time Out

Composer Credits

2020 Beginnings - New Commission London Accordion Orchestra
2020 Bette & Joan & Baby Jane In Development
2020 Oh Yes I Am! In Development
2019 Emilia Nick Hern Books
2019 Noye's Fludde Retold ENO Baylis
2019 Die Fledermaus Retold Baseless Fabric Opera
2018 Heroes of Christmas Iris Theatre Xmas Factor

AMD Credits

2017 Sing Before You Speak Again Young Vic MD - Joseph Atkins
2017 Lemon Workshop MD - Juan Martin
2016 The Sound of Music National Tour MD - David Steadman
2015 Elegies Criterion MD - Dean Austin

Animateur & Choir Leader Credits

2020 Devising Workshops: ATG Learning Ambassador Theatre Group
2019 Noye's Fludde Project (Composer & MD) ENO Baylis
2019 Various Outreach Projects/ENO Youth Programme ENO Baylis
2018 - Present Choral Conductor West End Musical Choir
2018 Musical Theatre Workshop: Young Vic Taking Part Young Vic
2017 - 2019 Various Projects Spitalfields Music
2015 The Freedom Game Surrey Arts - Royal Albert Hall
2015 - Present Various Projects Hackney Music Development Trust
2013 - 2016 Lambeth Singing Festival Royal Festival Hall
2009 - Present Learning & Participation Dept Southbank Centre

Keys/Accordion Credits

2020 Liza Pulman: The Heart of It National Tour & London MD - Joseph Atkins
2016 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang National Tour Dep MD - Andrew Hilton
2015 Top Hat National Tour Dep MD - Jae Alexander
2014 Jacques Brel is Alive & Well Charing Cross Theatre MD - Dean Austin
2012-13 Top Hat Aldwych & National Tour Dep MD - Dan Jackson
2012 Victor/Victoria Southwark Playhouse MD - Joseph Atkins
2015 - Present Audition Pianist Thursford Christmas Spectacular, Stricly Ballroom, Dr. Dolittle
2013 - Present Black Cat Cabaret Crazy Coqs, Cafe de Paris, Cafe Royal
2008 - Present Education & Outreach Projects Southbank Centre, Spitalfields Music, Glyndebourne,
English Touring Opera, English National Opera