Starlight Express is making a return to the London stage – with a twist!
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical is about a child’s train set that comes to life and competes to become the fastest engine in the world. It opened at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in 1984, and closed in 2002. It has been running in Bochum, Germany for over 30 years, and has been seen by more than 20 million people.
The musical has music by Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Richard Stilgoe. The actors famously perform on rollerskates, and the original choreography was by Arlene Phillips.
Andrew Lloyd Webber chatted further about the production on BBC Radio 2: “It’s not coming back to the stage inasmuch as it is coming back all around you. It’s running at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre – it’s completely new and has one big plot twist – people think steam is in the past, well, not any more – steam is the future! You’ll find out more when you go to the show.”
“This time it’ll be on skates, with lots of little tricks. What’s really exciting is that, originally we went into an old-fashioned theatre and we built as much as we could. This time we’re at a space, the Troubadour, where we can do absolutely anything. So it’s going to be around you, the seats will move, it’s going to be a completely new experience.”
Luke Sheppard (The Little Big Things) directs, while Tim Hatley (Back to the Future) will be designing the sets, with Gabriella Slade (Six) on costume design and Phillips part of the creative team, alongside video designer Andrzej Goulding (Life of Pi), lighting designer Howard Hudson (& Juliet) and sound designer Gareth Owen (MJ the Musical) with new orchestrations and musical supervision by Matthew Brind. It has new choreography by Ashley Nottingham (Pacific Overtures).
Lloyd Webber teases: “Lots of projection, a lot of excitement and, of course, we’ve got some music producers and new songs – including one written by my son – which irritatingly was the smash-hit in Bochum.”
Sheppard said: “Nothing comes close to the thrill of Starlight Express and it’s a privilege to be directing this brand-new production, which will bring audiences right up close to all the music, the wonder and the action that makes this show so iconic. We hope it will take London by storm all over again, and be both a celebration of this legendary work, as well as passing the train set to a new generation in a big, bold, and reimagined way. We can’t wait to get our skates on!”
Performances begin on 8 June 2024. Tickets will be released in due course.
As for casting – Lloyd Webber said: “We’re going to start auditioning now… and a “Poppa” has become a “Mama”.