Starlight Express

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lyrics: Richard Stilgoe

It's bedtime, and the lights are out, but this little boy has different plans. It's race night for his toy trains, and Electra is racing against Greaseball to be champion. Rusty the steam train is outdated, so his plans to take the race and win the girl of his dreams (Pearl, the first class carriage) seem hopeless. Can he succeed, and will the Starlight Express help him? This is essentially a simple love story like so many others, where the nice guy tries to win the girl, against all the odds - in this case by winning a race.

What makes it great?

For a start, the characters are all trains, and that makes it a visual feast as well as a musical one. The entire cast are on roller skates, and the costumes are brilliantly done so the cast really look like their train characters. The action takes place not only on the stage, but in some productions around the theatre, amongst the audience, above and to the side - but this tends to be only in the major theatres and not the touring shows.

The trains are also going very fast at times creating a kind of fairground, carnival feeling - it's a tremendously talented group that can skate around a stage so well.

There are three film sequences in 3D (the races themselves) and so you'll need to wear your 'safety' goggles (3D glasses).

This show has something for everyone. Because it has trains, rollerskates, racing, spectacular lighting and staging, a love story and some good songs most family members will find something to enjoy here.

Starlight Express Programme

What about the songs?

There are some good songs - good music and good lyrics. You would expect nothing less from Lloyd Webber and Stilgoe. You'll be clapping along throughout the show - and standing at the end - but few of the songs are really memorable. After the show has ended you will perhaps be humming them for a day or two. But this show doesn't have too many classic songs in the same way that Phantom and Evita do. The title song 'Starlight Express' and 'I am the Starlight' are the most memorable. 'U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D'. is a very funny spoof of Dolly Parton's 'D.I.V.O.R.C.E'.

Characters

ELECTRA (an electric train), GREASEBALL (a diesel train), POPPA (a steam train), RUSTY (a steam train)

ASHLEY (a smoking car), BUFFY (a buffet car), PEARL (an observation car), DINAH (a dining car)

Where can I see it?

There have been many productions since it started in 1984. It has been in the West End of London and Broadway, but there have also been a series of touring shows playing smaller theatres. This might not always be on, but it is the sort of show that will always return for another season so if this appeals to you keep an eye out for it.

Our view

We've seen it four times, in the West End of London and also in a regional production. I guess that means we must like it quite a lot - but to be honest we were not sure before we went. We were worried it would be a children's show (it is but it's for grown ups too). We were worried it would be just gimmicky (it isn't) and we weren't sure about a roller-skate show (it works perfectly).

So, we would recommend it - but you need to make up your own mind!