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THE CRAIG CHRISTIE SONGBOOK – St James Theatre, London.

craig christie

Creating original musicals to educate and inspire children is Craig Christie’s driving force and underpins the majority of his work. This is something he is known for, and when you see him in person it becomes clear from every impassioned words he speaks on stage, disliking nothing more than “seeing young people patronised.” 

The Craig Christie Songbook focuses heavily on this theme, with an eclectic mix of light-hearted comedy and darker pantomime-esque music. As Act One progresses it’s evident that Christie has achieved his goal, with each song transpiring to be catchy as well as thought-provoking.  The melodies are soft on the ear and each lyric is steeped in realism; although created originally for children, the key messages in Christie’s material apply to any age. I found them stylistically reminiscent of another composer, Scott Alan, who also has the ability to create songs that co-exist as an emotive commentary on life. As Christie himself claims, he has very few songs that were written to be standalone pieces, but that is not to his detriment as by adopting this strategy, he appears not only to be playing to his strengths, but to his passion.

Digressing for a moment from the material to the performers themselves, there is nothing quite like a showcase to introduce an audience to musical Theatre actors that they potentially may not have seen before. I am often astounded by the quality of talent that exists in this industry and tonight was no exception to this rule. Kieran Brown in particular has a vocal range and strength that is very rare and almost overwhelming in its power. His rousing voice bought the house down, followed by an equally impressive and  charming Amelia Cormack, who showed off her flair for comedy with “I Need Chocolate’.

Act Two takes an interesting turn as the same performers tackle Christie’s new musical, Villainy, currently in development. Based on seven of literatures most notorious villains, Villainy tackles how these characters struggle to break free from the shackles of the ‘public domain’, a fictional world that their infamy has trapped them in, desperate to unleash themselves on the real world.  Haydn Tee impresses here taking on the role of Captain Hook, and having developed the concept for this musical himself you can feel how his close relationship to the material particularly adds a depth and passion to his performance.  Due to time constraints, the audience understandably couldn’t hear the full catalogue of Villainy but it was sped through at a rapid pace. Christie narrating off-stage during each song transition helped us to grasp the plot but the impact would have been greater if the second act had been longer, and a few first act songs sacrificed. When fully staged in its entirety, I have a feeling that Villainy will have the potential to be a rather niche, if not mainstream, hit.

Thanks to the smooth producing team Skye Crawford and Hillary Elk, Craig Christie’s musical vision has delighted London’s ears once more, and I for one will be humming the title tune for a long while to come.

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Reviewed 04/07/2013

By Caroline Cronin
@CazCronin

4th July 2013
St James Theatre, London, SW1.

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