Mel Atkey has been writing musicals ever since he was in high school in his native Vancouver. He was a finalist for the Musical of the Year competition in Aarhus, Denmark, and his work has been short-listed for the Vivian Ellis Prize, the Quest for New Musicals, the Ken Hill Prize and Musical Stairs. His first musical, Shikara, was produced on radio in Canada. A single was released by singer Janice Jaud of one of the songs, "Far Away", and received airplay across Canada and the U.S.
Mel Atkey began his career in 1977 by co-producing a jazz concert with Vancouver impresario Willi Germann. This experience would later be recalled in his musical Poor Little Rich Girl Sings the Blues. Other early projects included a telethon featuring folk singer Tom Northcott, and he spent two years as a theatre critic before moving to Toronto to pursue his career as a musical theatre writer. He was commissioned to write songs for CBC Radio, and was a member of the Guild of Canadian Musical Theatre Writers' Lehman Engel Workshop. He was a director of the Cabaret and Musical Theatre Alliance until he moved to London in 1991. He made his New York debut in April 2001 with an off-off-Broadway showcase of O Pioneers! with book by Robert Sickinger. This show was then a finalist for “Stages 2002” at the New Tuners theatre in Chicago. Their second musical, A Little Princess was presented at Wings Theatre in New York in 2003, and his two character musical Perfect Timing, for which he wrote the book as well as music and lyrics, was recently showcased to great acclaim as part of Greenwich Theatre (London)’s Musical Futures series. He wrote the opening number for Janie Dee’s recent critically acclaimed one-woman show.
His book When We Both Got to Heaven tells the story of his ancestor James Atkey, who came to Georgian Bay from the Isle of Wight in 1854 as a teacher to the Ojibwa. It was published by Natural Heritage Books, Toronto, in October 2002. A second book, Broadway North: The Dream of a Canadian Musical Theatre was published by Natural Heritage in 2006. Its follow-up book A Million Miles from Broadway – Musical Theatre Beyond New York and London was published by Friendlysong Books in 2012. Running Away with the Circus – or – “Now Is the Winter of our Missing Tent, published in 2013, tells of his experience with the big top on tour in Taiwan.