Starlight Express, with music by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Richard Stilgoe, with additional lyrics by David Yazbeck, was first conceived in 1975 as a sort of Cinderella story with trains. Lloyd Webber envisaged the possibility of it becoming an animated film, but this never happened. Then in 1983 he re-wrote it as a musical for stage for his two children. It opened at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London and ran for eighteen years, having a re-vamp with new music and lyrics in 1992.
The production now showing at The Bristol Hippodrome is wonderful. The musical tells the story of a race between train engines for the world championship. We have Greaseball a diesel train who is the reigning world champion, played by Jamie Capewell (shades of Elvis), Electra an electric train and a very colourful character played by Mykal Rand and the no-hoper Rusty, a steam train, played by Kristofer Harding. Each of the engines must also have one carriage to join the race. Rusty hopes that Pearl, played by Amanda Coutts, will be his carriage as he is in love with her, but she initially chooses Greaseball.
The race takes place and this is where some wonderful special effects happen using 3D glasses – very spectacular! Eventually after several challenges Rusty wins both the race and the girl, and as in all good fairy tales they all live happily ever after.
This show was directed and choreographed by Arlene Phillips and she has done an outstanding job. Directing and choreographing any big show is testing enough but to have to do the whole thing on roller skates just takes your breath away. All praise must also go to all the cast who perform some outstanding feats on their skates. They have obviously not just had to learn the dance but also train as skaters too – Wow!
The lighting – designed by Nick Richings - is brilliant and certainly adds to the overall ‘buzz’ of the show – showing off and enhancing the spectacular colurs of the costumes.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music is of course catchy, singable and at times poignant. It is well performed and the singing is of a high standard. The actors are to be congratulated on their ability to sing and skate at the same time – it must take some stamina.
What a spectacular evening! Music, dancing – on roller skates – lights, glitter, wonderful costumes and sets and the novelty of 3D sections as well, all add up to a wonderful evening’s entertainment.