Andrew Lloyd Webber's roller-skating classic Starlight Express enters its 17th year in the West End tonight at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. To date, over 7.8 million people have seen the London production, which is now the second longest running musical in British history, behind only Lloyd Webber's feline blockbuster Cats, which continues at the New London Theatre.

Starlight, a tribute to the era of steam trains, originally opened at the Apollo Victoria in March 1984, at which time six miles of timber, two and a half acres of sheet wood and 60 tonnes of steel were used to construct the complicated, multi-tiered racetrack set. In 1992, five new songs were added to the score and the show was completely re-choreographed, re-directed, re-lit and the set refurbished. A new single and album were released in March 1993.

Last year, it was widely rumoured that Starlight Express would close, bowing to the competition of Disney's Broadway hit The Lion King which arrived at the Lyceum last October. But closure notices have failed to materialise.

Starlight has taken over £110 million in London alone. Worldwide, the show has been seen by more than 16.5 million people and box office revenues have topped £423 million. Productions have been mounted in New York, Las Vegas, Japan, Germany and Mexico with additional tours in the US, Canada, Australia and Japan.

Starlight Express has music by Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Richard Stilgoe. It is directed by Trevor Nunn with design by John Napier, costume design by Liz Da Costa, choreography by Arlene Phillips and lighting by David Hersey. Sound is by Martin Levan, with musical direction by David Caddick and Neil Cleary. It is produced by the Really Useful Theatre Company.