Dave Malloy: The American composer who’s about to be the talk of London

Who is Dave Malloy, and why has he become such a big name stateside? Malloy may be a new kid on the block to UK audiences, but he has been building up quite the presence across the pond (do we hear, 3-time Tony Award nominee?) since 2007. And this autumn, theatre fans will be able to catch not one, but two of his critically acclaimed works on London stages; Preludes opens at Southwark Playhouse from 6 September, and his sell-out song cycle Ghost Quartet will open our new theatre from 24 October. Need any more convincing? Read on to find out where he has been all your life.

Composing aficionado

First off, the man has written twenty shows. That puts him equal with King of the West End, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber – that means he’s averaged more than a show a year since his first work in 2000. We’re tired just thinking about this output of work.

Photo by Jennifer S. Altman for The Boston Globe

Awards galore

Malloy has been nominated and won (just a few) awards. A three-time Tony Award and four-time Drama Desk Award nominee; the winner of two Obie Awards, a Smithsonian Ingenuity Award, the Richard Roberts award, a Theatre World Award, ASCAP New Horizons Award and a recipient of the Jonathan Larson Grant. He has also been a MacDowell fellow, and composer-in-residence at Arts Nova at the Signature Theatre – we’d say that’s a pretty hefty haul.

Dave Malloy in Ghost Quartet at the McKittrick Hotel, New York. Photo by Ryan Jensen.  

A man of many talents

A writer, composer, orchestrator, musical director, sound designer and performer, he wears many a hat and wears them very well. He originated the role of Pierre in his very own Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 before Josh Groban, who immediately fell in love with the show and Malloy’s writing. Groban saw the show and ‘asked the stage managers to be let backstage at intermission just so he could go backstage and “freak out” to people.’ (Broadway Direct) – what’s good enough for Groban is good enough for us.

Wardrobe crew member Emma Atherton helps Malloy into his costume for Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. Photo by Alex Welsh for Vulture.

Tolstoy’s War and Peace?

Haven’t heard of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812? Well, Dave Malloy wrote and staged the impossible with this… A musical based on a slim 70-page section of Tolstoy’s War and Peace – sound like a hard sell? It earned 12 Tony Award nominations (including Best Musical, Score, Book and Orchestrations) and won two for design. It also catapulted Phillipa Soo (who originated Eliza in Hamilton) to stardom as she was cast in the title role of Ars Nova. Did we mention he also wrote, composed, orchestrated and musically directed it himself?

Dave Malloy and the cast of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. Photo by Leon Wohl

 A cult-following

Malloy musicals boast an absolute cult following. On three occasions, Malloy has put together fundraisers to create cast recordings of his work, and all three times he has far exceeded the target. He launched a Kickstarter in June 2019 to fund the cast recording of new musical Octet, and 865 backer’s pledged $61,000 to bring the project to life. The target was $30,000. He also started an Indiegogo campaign for Blue Wizard, Black Wizard in which he asked people to buy a ticket in advance of the show even being completed to help fund the production. He reached 106% of his target. Buying a ticket before the show is even finished? If that doesn’t scream cult status, we’re not sure what does.

Dave Malloy, Josh Groban and Rachel Chavkin. Photo by Monica Simoes.

Extension, extension, extension

Octet has only just closed its Off-Broadway run, on June 30, at the Signature Theatre – it was extended three times due to such high demand.

Cast of Octet. Top row from left to right: Kim Blanck, Starr Busby, Margo Seibert, Kuhoo Verma. Bottom row from left to right: Justin Gregory-Lopez, J.D. Mollison, Adam Bashian, Alex Gibson. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Moby Dick… the musical!

It has recently been announced Dave Malloy will star as Herman Melville in his new musical adaptation of Moby Dick. He, along with the cast, recently performed an excerpt from the show under the iconic 94-foot-long whale at the American National History Museum. He was received with absolute rave reviews, as everyone gears up for what is sure to be another incredible moment for musical theatre.

Dave Malloy and Rachel Chavkin premiering Moby Dick, The Musical at the American Natural History Museum. Photo by Smithsonian.com

Don’t miss the long-awaited London Premiere of Ghost Quartet at the Boulevard Theatre, running 24 October 2019 – 04 January 2020. Tickets from just £12 for every performance!

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