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Starlight Express (Southampton - tour)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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A little boy’s dream of toy train antics during the night, whilst he sleeps, is the basis for this phenomenal production originally written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe in the 1980’s.

Much of its original score has been re-arranged, re-orchestrated or entirely re-written but Arlene Philips who both directs and choreographs this high energy piece of theatre stays true to the original concept, whilst developing modern psychedelic and exhilarating special effects.

Despite the relatively small stage space the skating is innovative and breath-taking. The action is slick and seamless, a feast of electrifying vitality throughout. The small orchestra, led by David Rose executes both powerful and poignant non-stop musical numbers superbly. The opening chorus of Act 1 and the closing chorus of Act 2 rock the theatre, whilst the interspersed romantic solos soften the mood.

The audience ranges from 9 to 90 and all are totally transfixed by the turbo charged excitement before them. Although rather a weak and predictable story line where good triumphs over evil and the boy eventually gets the girl, the sheer exuberance of this talented cast carry the day.

Kristopher Harding excels in the lead role of Rusty, the Steam engine, and is convincingly matched with Amanda Coutts Pearl, the first class carriage. Mykal Rand a strong-but-camp Electric engine and Jamie Capewell as an Elvis style Diesel engine, both shine as the villains. Poppa Lothair Eaton is real a favourite with the audience. This old stager brings the soul of Starlight Express into the modern arena.

The three hip hop boys (Robert Nurse], Lex Milczarek, Glenn Robb, and the humorous Ruthie Stephens as Dinah all support brilliantly.

The lighting designed by Nick Richings and special effects are imaginative and create amazingly diverse scenes within the static scenery.

The 3D screening of the pre-recorded races, although fun and entertaining may well divide audience opinion. This surprising addition keeps the pace of the show moving and certainly enables more action than would have been possible on the restricted set. Having seen the original London production though this feels a little contrived and slightly out of place in theatre.

Starlight Express is a thoroughly enjoyable theatrical extravaganza, uplifting, high speed and bang on time.


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