Nearly three years after it rolled out of the West End, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express will embark on its first-ever UK tour this winter. The production – which is being specially re-designed in 3-D – opens on 1 November 2004 at the Manchester Opera House before continuing, until 30 July 2005, to six more venues, with further dates to be announced.

Lloyd Webber wrote Starlight Express, a tribute to the era of steam trains and performed entirely on roller skates, for two of his children, now grown. The musical originally opened at the West End’s Apollo Victoria on 27 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.

Over the years, Lloyd Webber regularly updated the piece. 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.

By the time Starlight Express ended its 18-year West End run on 12 January 2002, it had clocked up 7,406 performances and more than £140 million at the box office, having been seen by over eight million people (See News, 13 Jan 2002).

The new, redesigned production is being specially created for the UK tour by members of the show’s original creative team, including designer John Napier (Cats, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon) and choreographer Arlene Phillips (Grease, Saturday Night Fever). It will also feature additional lyrics by David Yazbek.

Following Manchester, Starlight Express will visit Sunderland, Bristol, Oxford, Edinburgh, Southampton and Liverpool. The tour is being produced by David Ian for Clear Channel Entertainment in association with Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group Ltd.

- by Terri Paddock