Starlight Express Celebrates 15 Years TodayDate: 25 March 1999
Andrew Lloyd Webber s roller-skating musical Starlight Express enters its 16th year at the Apollo Victoria Theatre on Saturday, 27 March 1999. And tonight a gala performance will be held to celebrate the show's 15 year run to date. All of the team's creative team - including Lloyd Webber, director and current National Theatre artistic director Trevor Nunn, choreographer Arlene Phillips and designer John Napier - and many original cast members will attend tonight's show and an after-show party.
In January, it was widely reported that Starlight Express was due to close in an anticipated shake-up of West End musicals preceding the arrival of Disney's Broadway hit The Lion King. In an interview in the Sunday Times newspaper, Lloyd Webber was quoted as saying: 'The Lion King will be a very big show that will cause a clear-out in the West End. Strong shows such as The Phantom of the Opera will survive; others may go to the wall. But there will be a net gain because it will encourage people to go to the theatre again.'
He continued by saying that the arrival of the £10m Broadway hit provided an ideal opportunity to retire Starlight Express. 'My children went to see it recently and did not know the difference between diesel and other trains, which told me it was dated. So I'm going to rework it and launch it again as a travelling show outside London.'
A spokesperson for the show, however, told What's On Stage at the time that the report was completely untrue and that Lloyd Webber was misquoted. In a statement, the impresario strenuously denied that the show would be closing. 'Starlight Express has tremendous advance ticket sales of £1 million and there is no question of it being closed. Starlight Express will continue to entertain and attract new audiences and run throughout 1999 and beyond.'
According to Lloyd Webber, The Lion King will be a help not a hindrance to its West End neighbours. 'The success of Whistle Down the Wind and its hit songs has broadened the appeal of musicals to new audiences,' he says. 'I believe the arrival of The Lion King in the autumn will do exactly the same thing.'
Two other shows - Doctor Dolittle and Cameron Mackintosh s Miss Saigon - were also rumoured to be closing, but in January, spokespeople for both shows hotly denied any plans to do so. Despite this, it was announced last week that Doctor Dolittle will close in August.
Starlight Express has taken over £421 million worldwide and £110 million at the Apollo Victoria. Over seven and a half million people have seen the London production which marked its 6000th performance in August 1998. It is second only to Lloyd Webber's Cats as the longest running musical in British theatre history.
Five new songs were added and the show was re-choreographed in 1992. It is currently booking through March 2000. A new cast takes over from Monday 29 March.