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Starlight Express

Starlight Express is a rock musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Richard Stilgoe (lyrics), with later revisions by Don Black (lyrics) and David Yazbek (music and lyrics for the 2nd US tour). The story follows a child's dream in which his toy train set comes to life; famously the actors perform wearing roller skates.

Starlight Express is the most popular musical show in Germany.

History

During the 1970s, Lloyd Webber planned to produce a musical movie adaptation of Rev W. Awdry's Railway Series books. This fell through, as Awdry felt that Lloyd Webber wanted a greater degree of creative control than he was prepared to give. A legacy of this early scheme is the Really Useful Company, named in reference to a catchphrase used in several of the books.

Lloyd Webber was interested in developing the idea of a musical about trains further, and conceived what he described as "a Cinderella story" in which Rusty stands for Cinderella, and Greaseball and Electra, the stepsisters. The Starlight Express itself fills the role of the fairy godmother.

Synopsis

Original London production, 1984

Act One

The musical opens with the disembodied voice of Control (who we never see), who is playing with his toy trains, ordering all trains to racing mode. As Control falls asleep, still murmuring his instructions, the Overture gently picks up. The music crescendos with the cast emerging in the half-dark to skate around the track, almost comes to a climax but is rudely interrupted by the opening crashes of "Rolling Stock". Greaseball and his Gang of diesel thugs pour onto the stage to sing their own praises, namely that they are rolling stock and very fast. Greaseball dares anyone to challenge him in a race - "this is my back view, and it's all you'll see".

Rusty, the steam train relegated to the sidings, enters, singing that nobody can do it like a steam train. Greaseball and his Gang intimidate him then leave, leaving him to sing his defiant "Call me Rusty" as he brings on the Coaches, dreaming of racing in the championship races and winning. The lyrics play on the ambiguity of "Rusty" being both an adjective and his name, with the theme of "call me Rusty if you like/call me Rusty if you dare".

The Coaches question Rusty's ability to race - he isn't fast enough, he isn't strong enough. Rusty exits, leaving the Coaches to introduce themselves with the song "A Lotta Locomotion". Ashley is a smoking car, who has tried to "kick the habit" but can't, Buffy the buffet car offers snacks that are "hot, and cheap, and quick", Dinah is a dining car who'll cook for you, and provide a willing ear for your problems. Pearl is the "Brand new girl", who has agreed in the past to race with Rusty as his partner, but is now having reservations about his ability.

The posturing Greaseball returns, with the 2nd and 3rd class Sleepers (Joule and Volta in quickchange costumes) in tow. Together with the coaches, they all sing "Pumping Iron", another tribute to diesel's, and Greaseball's, greatness.

Rusty brings on the freight train, which consists of the three Rockies, Flat Top, Dustin and C.B. After bickering with the Coaches, they introduce themselves with the song "Freight".

At the end of the number the national representatives of France, Italy, Germany, Russia, Japan and Great Britain arrive, and line up to take their partners for the first heat, but before they can do anything there is a surprise late entry. Electra is heralded by his five components, and the fact that all the lights have gone out. He sings the song "AC/DC", superficially claiming that he can run on either Alternating Current or Direct Current, but also referring to the fact that he will take either male or female partners.

Now all the engines pair up with their racing partners, ready for the first heat. Electra sends a messenger to woo Pearl by proxy, inviting her to race with him. In her indecision over who to race with, Pearl leaves Rusty unconnected, then sings him the energetic "He'll Whistle at Me" about the engine of her dreams, who is a steam train who whistles at her. She then goes off to race with Electra.

"Heat One" sees Greaseball and Dinah cheat, bully and force their way ahead of Hashamoto and Espresso, racing with C.B. and Buffy respectively.

Dinah isn't happy about cheating, and says as much to Greaseball. He knocks her to the floor and leaves her there, despite her pleas and apologies. C.B. congratulates the pair on a good race, and seeing that Dinah is alone, sings her the much acclaimed ballad "There's Me".

Poppa enters to much fanfare from the Rockies to sing the blues. "Poppa's Blues" gives us a little tutorial on singing the blues, then Rusty appears, looking downtrodden. Poppa asks him what's wrong, and discovers that unless he can race with Pearl, Rusty is reluctant to race at all. To persuade him that he can still race and win, that there is still hope, Poppa introduces Belle, the sleeping car.

Belle, apparently asleep in a coal bunker, wakes and sings "Belle, the Sleeping Car", the story of her life. She formerly raced with Poppa. Rusty asks her to race with him, and she accepts.

In "Heat Two", Rusty loses to Electra (racing with Pearl) and Weltschaft with Joule. Utterly disheartened, Rusty returns to the junkyard where Poppa entreats him to trust in the Starlight Express. Rusty, however, does not believe in the Starlight Express. To prove his existence, Poppa announces that he is going to race. There's just one problem - all the places for Heat Three are taken. Suddenly, and apparently through divine intervention, Control announces a vacancy - the British train will not be racing. Taking this as a sign from the Starlight Express, Poppa pairs up with Dustin(the only freight truck who will go with him - Rocky I was partnered to the City of Milton Keynes) and races.

"Heat Three" is barely won by Poppa, with Bobo coming a close second and Turnov taking up the rear. Although he has won, the race nearly kills Poppa - there is no way he can race again in the final. He begs Rusty to take his place. Unsure what to do, and not believing in its existence anyway, Rusty asks the Starlight Express for help with the song "Starlight Express".

Act Two

The act opens with "The Rap", in which the whole cast argue over the validity of Rusty's claim to Poppa's place. After all, he has already raced once and been disqualified - but on the other hand, Poppa has the right to name his successor. It is eventually decided that Rusty will race, rather than runner-up Bobo, partnered with C.B. Greaseball, having dumped Dinah, now invites Pearl to switch sides and race with him instead of Electra. Declaring that it's "only fun", Pearl accepts.

Dinah sings about her newly-single state in the country and western style "U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D.". She mourns that she will be the subject of ridicule from the other trains, but all the same, vows that she will never forgive Greaseball, or take him back.

Belle, Buffy and Ashley persuade her to cheer up and try to get her man back in "Rolling Stock: Reprise" by being more active, aggressive and manipulative. Shortly thereafter, Electra invites Dinah to race with him which, in the name of getting Greaseball jealous, she accepts.

C.B. meets with Electra, and reveals his psychotic and destructive nature with the song "C.B.", in which he admits to causing all the major train crashes in recent history. He agrees to fix the race so that Electra wins.

The "Uphill Final" is a dead heat between Electra and Greaseball, with Rusty held back by C.B, who caused him to miss a vital connection and thus the rest of the race. When Pearl discovers this she declares that she's going to the race marshall to tell them, Greaseball turns nasty on her and tells her that if she does that, she'll be disqualified herself. Lamenting that this wasn't how she wanted things to go, she stays quiet. C.B. taunts Rusty that he's no real engine, and never stood a chance in the first place.

Rusty doesn't get long to feel sorry for himself though, as the Rockies descend to tell him that that's just how things are - no matter how talented you are, if you aren't lucky, you'll never win. "Right Place, Right Time" is arguably a complaint about racism - the Rockies and both Steam trains are black, and are therefore at an automatic disadvantage.

Finally hitting rock bottom, Rusty once more begs the Starlight Express to help him, and this time, in the "Starlight Sequence", gets an answer. The Starlight Express says that it will help him win, and that Rusty is, himself, the Starlight Express. Suddenly he has a lot of faith. As the music (the thwarted climax from the overture) dies away, Rusty hears coughing in the background. It is Dustin, the aggregate hopper. Rusty asks Dustin to race with him in the final race, and Dustin readily agrees.

Dinah is fed up with racing. She expects a train to whistle at her, and Electra doesn't, so she disconnects him. Unperturbed, Electra asks C.B. to race with him instead.

The "Downhill Final" sees Greaseball and Pearl, Electra and C.B. and Rusty and Dustin pitted against each other. Electra and Greaseball are not concentrating on the race, instead they are scrapping amongst themselves. Under cover of the row, Rusty takes the lead, only to lose it again when Greaseball realises that Pearl is holding him back and uncouples her, and Rusty stops to rescue her. But now Greaseball has no partner. The rules of the race state that each engine has to race with a coach. His only option is to try and take C.B. from Electra. The engines fight over him, allowing Rusty to take the lead and this time he keeps it and is the overall champion. Greaseball, Electra and C.B., meanwhile, veer into a tunnel and crash.

Pride beyond wounded, Electra staggers back onto stage, having somehow separated himself from Greaseball and C.B.- minus his wig - and rages about the unfairness of his losing. After singing the musical tirade, "No Comeback", he disappears from the musical, never to be seen again.

Greaseball and C.B. - what's left of them - trundle onto the stage to announce that they have had "One Rock 'n' Roll Too Many". The entire cast (minus Rusty, Pearl, Poppa and Dustin) have a good laugh at them. Poppa then demands that Greaseball take them to where he left Pearl, as Rusty is bound to be there, and he hasn't claimed his title yet.

Pearl is alone, and sings the power ballad "Only He". Finally she realises that it was always Rusty that she should have been with, and worries that it may be too late to repair all the damage she has unwittingly caused.

Rusty appears and forgives her instantly, and together they sing "Only You".

Then the rest of the cast descend upon them. Buffy and Ashley reflect on how lovely it is when they see romance on the railroad. Greaseball apologises to Dinah, and, forgetting her anger, she follows Rusty's lead, and instantly takes him back.

Poppa then tells Greaseball that he can be converted to steam, saying that he would then be under his own control - at which point Control orders the trains to obey him, and do what they're told. They tell him to shut it.

Poppa and Belle then lead the company in a rousing rendition of "Light at the End of the Tunnel", a gospel-inspired number singing the praises of steam power. The show then finished with the cast skating round the theatre, greeting the audience, to an orchestral reprise of "Light At The End of the Tunnel".

Characters

The Voice-over Characters

  • Control, the young child in whose dream the story takes place.
  • Mom, Control's mother.
  • The Starlight Express - The midnight train, a representation of God.The Engines
  • Rusty, the steam engine who longs to enter the race and win.
  • Poppa, a retired champion Steamer.
  • Greaseball, the macho diesel locomotive and reigning champion.
  • Electra, the new challenger, described by Control as "the Engine of the Future".The Coaches
  • Pearl the Observation Car, the newest 1st class observation coach who instantly catches Rusty's attention and eventually falls in love with him.
  • Dinah the Dining Car, sweet, southern and lovable Dining car. Best friend to Pearl.
  • Ashley the Smoking Car, laid back and always in search of a cigarette.
  • Buffy the Buffet Car, smart and sassy, hot and cheap and quick.
  • Belle the Sleeping Car, an ancient but luxurious Pullman carriage comparable to the Orient Express. The character was eliminated from all productions after Broadway.
  • 2nd and 3rd class Sleepers, chorus roles played by the performers of Joule and Volta when Pumping Iron came before their entrance in AC/DC, only appeared in London between 1984 - 1992, and only during "Pumping Iron".The Freight Trucks
  • Rocky 1, 2, 3, and 4 - the box cars who carry goods and supplies freight. Rocky 4 only featured in the late 1980s, on Broadway, in Germany and on the Japan/Australia tour. In the US/UK tours and new Bochum production, they have been replaced by the "Hip Hoppers"
  • Flat-Top the Brick Truck, a friend of Rusty who longs to be part of Greaseball's gang.
  • Dustin the Big Hopper - The Big Hopper. Carries aggregate freight. Sweet, shy and sensitive about his weight.
  • CB the Red Caboose/Caboose, the caboose (brake truck). A two-faced psychopath who causes disaster wherever he goes. He is a major character in the original plot and remains vital to the German production. However, he was cut from the London production from 1992 onwards and is only a minor character in later revised English language versions. Electra's Components
  • Krupp, Electra's armaments truck.
  • Wrench, Electra's repair truck.
  • Purse, Electra's money truck.
  • Volta, Electra's freezer truck.
  • Joule, Electra's dynamite truck. Engines
  • Bobo the French Engine TGV
  • Espresso the Rome - Milan Express
  • Weltschaft/Ruhrgold the Intercity Express
  • Turnov the Russian Trans-Siberian Express
  • Hashamoto/Nintendo the Shinkansen Bullet Train
  • City of Milton Keynes/Prince of Wales the British Advanced Passenger Train/Royal trainEnsemble
  • Race Marshals - they wield the green and red flags at the beginnings and ends of the races, tow crashed engines off the track and decide on the outcome of the aborted Uphill Final. Their costumes are Gang with fluorescent chequered tabards thrown on top.
  • Traxes - trick skating race marshals. Introduced for the 2nd US tour, also featured in the UK Tour and German productions. Traxes wear Rollerblades rather than quad skates and exist purely to perform stunts, they are not part of the ensemble.
  • Greaseball's gang - a chorus of black-clad diesel engines who do Greaseball's bidding.
  • Tank, Gook and Lube - Member's of Gereaseball's gang, who take the spoken lines in Taunting Rusty. Though they still exist, they are no longer named characters.

Musical numbers

Original London production, 1984

Act I

  • Overture
  • Rolling Stock - Greaseball and the Gang
  • Taunting Rusty - Rusty, Greaseball, Gang
  • Call Me Rusty - Rusty, Pearl, Dinah, Buffy and Ashley
  • Rusty, You Can't Be Serious - Rusty, Pearl, Dinah, Buffy and Ashley
  • A Lotta Locomotion - Dinah, Ashley, Buffy and Pearl
  • Pumping Iron - Greaseball, Pearl, Ashley, Dinah, Buffy, 2nd and 3rd class Sleepers
  • Freight - Pearl, Ashley, Dinah, Buffy, Rocky I, Rocky II, Rocky III, C.B, Dustin, Flat-Top
  • Entry of the National Trains - National Engines and Marshals
  • AC/DC - Electra, Krupp, Wrench, Purse, Joule, Volta and Company
  • Hitching and Switching - The Company
  • Pearl, You've Been Honoured - Purse, Pearl, Rusty
  • He Whistled at Me - Pearl
  • Race: Heat One - Greaseball and Dinah, Espresso and Buffy, Hashamoto and C.B.
  • That was Unfair - Dinah, Greaseball, C.B.
  • There's Me - C.B.
  • Poppa's Blues - Poppa, Rocky I, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rusty
  • Belle the Sleeping Car - Belle
  • Starlight Express Introduction - Poppa, Rusty, Belle
  • Race: Heat Two - Electra and Pearl, Weltschaft and Joule, Rusty and Belle
  • Boy, Boy, Boy - Poppa, Rusty, Belle, Trucks
  • Race: Heat Three - Poppa and Dustin, Turnov and Wrench, Bobo and Ashley
  • Laughing Stock - The Company
  • Starlight Express - Rusty
Act II

  • The Rap - The Company
  • Pearl Twirl - Greaseball, Pearl, Dinah, Buffy, Ashley
  • U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D. - Dinah
  • Rolling Stock (Reprise) - Dinah, Belle, Ashley and Buffy
  • C.B. - C.B, Electra, Krupp, Wrench, Purse, Joule, Volta
  • Race: Uphill Final - Electra and Dinah, Rusty and C.B., Greaseball and Pearl
  • I Was Robbed - C.B., Rusty, Greaseball, Electra, Pearl, Trucks
  • Right Place, Right Time - Rocky I, Rocky II, Rocky III
  • I Am The Starlight - Rusty, Starlight Express, Dustin
  • He Whistled at Me (Reprise) - Dinah, Electra, Krupp, Wrench, Purse, Volta, Joule, C.B.
  • Race: Downhill Final - Rusty and Dustin, Electra and C.B, Greaseball and Pearl
  • No Comeback - Electra, Krupp, Wrench, Purse, Joule, Volta
  • One Rock & Roll Too Many - Greaseball, C.B.
  • Only He (Has The Power to Move Me) - Pearl, (Rusty)
  • Only You - Pearl, Rusty
  • Light at the End of the Tunnel - The Company

Revisions in later productions

In later productions, the following songs have generally been deleted: "Call Me Rusty," "There's Me," "Belle the Sleeping Car," "Race: Heat Three," "Rolling Stock" (Reprise), "Wide Smile/C.B.", "No Comeback," "Only He" and "Only You."

In their place, the following new numbers are generally included:

  • Engine of Love - Rusty, Pearl, Dinah, Buffy, Ashley (Act I)
  • Crazy - Rusty, Pearl, Ashley, Dinah and Buffy (Act I)
  • Make Up My Heart - Pearl (Act I)
  • Next Time You Fall In Love - Pearl, Rusty (Act II; unless "Only You" is sung)

There are two versions of the title song: starting with either "When your good-nights have been said" or "When the night is darkest", having different melodies for the verses.

"A Lotta Locomotion" was replaced on the US/UK tours with "A Whole Lotta Locomotion", with lyrics by Yazbek. There have also been three different raps:

  • The Rap (Lyrics: Stilgoe) (1984-91)
  • Check It Out, Can You Believe This? (Lyrics: Stilgoe) (1992-2002)
  • It's Race Time! (Lyrics: Yazbek) (2004-?)

Roller skating and dance

Starlight Express features a unique element to the performance in the use of roller skates. The cast are trained for 3-4 months in roller skating before they begin performances, so no prior experience is required. The athleticism of the cast is on a par to professional sports players. However the demands of the show also often lead to injuries. The level of skating performance is dependent on the production, as the permanent sets give far greater opportunity to skate than the theatre-based tours. The US and UK tours had comparatively little space for the performers to use, and the use of pre-recorded races removed the most demanding physical element of performance.

The show was choreographed by Arlene Phillips, who undertook a daunting task in creating dancers on roller skates.

Each character has their own set of moves called "tick-overs" which they run through when otherwise idle. These moves express the characterisation, whether it be aggression, vanity or limbering up for action.

Productions

West End

The West End production, directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Arlene Phillips opened on March 27 1984 at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, where it ran for 7,406 performances. Original cast members included Stephanie Lawrence, Frances Ruffelle, Jeff Shankley, Jeffrey Daniel and Ray Shell. The theatre had been overhauled to include a race track that extended into and around the stalls and around the front of the dress circle.

Plot Revisions

In November 1992, the London production, christened The New Starlight Express, was re-launched with heavy revisions to the material, partly influenced by the subsequent productions described below. Five songs (Crazy, He'll Whistle at Me, Make Up My Heart, Next Time You Fall in Love, The Megamix) were added, 12 songs (the Overture, Engine of Love, Call me Rusty, Hitching and Switching, There's Me, Belle The Sleeping Car, Heat Three, Wide Smile, High Style, No Comeback, Only He, Only You) and two characters ("C.B." and "Belle") were cut.

Belle, having proved incompatible with the shorter 4-race system on Broadway, was cut along with C.B. Cutting C.B. required a near complete overhaul of the plot (though the lighting design didn't change - his spotlight still came up in "Freight" right up to the last performance of the show), as without a clear cut villain, Rusty, Electra and Greaseball had to cause their own problems or be the victims of circumstance to move the story along.

The "Overture" was scrapped, with the "Entry of National Trains" moved to the opening of the show from its former place following "Freight". The energetic, high speed "He Whistled at Me" had been replaced by the languid ballad "Make Up My Heart" some years before, but was first recorded on the 1992 cast recording. "Pumping Iron" was moved to immediately after "AC/DC", shifting the intention from merely boasting to a direct challenge from Greaseball to the newcomer and cutting off the end of the preceding song. This meant that the 2nd and 3rd class Sleepers were no longer seen, as the performers who had filled those roles were now onstage as the female Components. Rather than winning a heat each, as in the 5-race structure, Greaseball and Electra come first and second in the first heat, securing places in the final for each of them. Rusty now didn't race at all until the final, only reluctantly taking Poppa's place after the title song. Poppa won the second heat with Bobo coming second.

"The Rap" was completely re-written, as the debate - whether or not Rusty should be allowed to race in Poppa's place when he'd already been disqualified - was completely redundant. It became an anthem to how great racing is, rather than an argument. Pearl still switched engines to Electra, leaving Dinah uncoupled. With Belle gone, Ashley and Buffy carried "Rolling Stock (Reprise)" by themselves, allowing them each more vocals. After the Uphill Final, when Dinah uncouples Electra, with no C.B. he partners Buffy instead for the Downhill Final. Rather than being crashed intentionally, Electra and Greaseball crash accidentally at the end of the race. Electra then took C.B.'s place in "One Rock 'n' Roll Too Many", and also took one of Greaseball's spoken lines("You mean I could be converted to steam?" became "D'you think I could be converted to steam?") afterwards to be included in the scene. As a second finale, "The Megamix" was added. It consists of a few phrases from most of the songs in the show, including one that by the end was no longer there - "He'll Whistle at Me" was cut in 1996, but remained represented.

Starlight Express has had many advertising slogans:

  • The Race Is On...
  • Still Light Years Ahead
  • Power Play
  • Get a Life
  • Energise
  • The Fastest Show on Earth
  • Join the Rush Hour
  • Electrifying
  • Fast Forward
  • Go Off The Rails
  • Out of This World
  • Reach For The Stars
  • X-Treme Entertainment
  • The Final Countdown (January 2002)

Broadway

The Broadway production opened on March 15 1987 at the Gershwin Theatre, where it ran for 761 performances. This version featured extensive revisions to the plot and the addition and omission of several musical numbers. "C.B." at this point lost his name and was henceforth known only as "Red Caboose," and rather than racing simply for the accolade "Champion Engine of the World", the trains raced for a prize, the "Silver Dollar".

The race structure changed from three heats with one winner each in the final, to two heats with two winners each in the final. Rusty didn't race in the heats at all, making Belle (Memphis Belle, as she was re-named) redundant. This made the show considerably shorter and less complex, as there was now one race fewer and no debate over whether or not Rusty should be allowed to race in the final. It also lead to Belle being entirely cut from the show in later productions, as she served no useful purpose. The engines now raced for a prize, the Silver Dollar, rather than just for the sake of winning.

The "Entry of the National Engines" was put at the beginning of the show, in place of the "Overture". The song "Engine of Love" was created, as now Rusty came on with the Coaches. Pearl then went off with him before "A Lotta Locomotion", so that it was sung only by Dinah, Buffy and Ashley. The highly energetic and challenging "He Whistled at Me" was replaced with the more sedate ballad "Make Up My Heart", changing Pearl's dilemma from 'Is Rusty the train I dream about?' to 'Which engine should I race with, Rusty or Electra?' "AC/DC" no longer came to a conclusion, but was interrupted by Greaseball with "Pumping Iron", now a direct challenge to the newcomer. Because Electra had already entered with his entourage, the second and third class Sleepers no longer existed. Joule, Volta and Wrench now joined "Pumping Iron" in their places. "There's Me" became a duet between Caboose and Dinah.

"The Rap" was obviously completely re-written, as the original mainly concerned Rusty's predicament and now that he wasn't in one, was irrelevant. For the "Downhill Final", Rusty appeared in a new costume as the Starlight Express. None of the other characters recognised him. After the race, Caboose stole the Silver Dollar. The company accuse Rusty of having stolen it (although it was his by rights anyway, since he'd just won), and he consents to being searched if the opposition have to do likewise. This lead to a lengthy slapstick chase, at the conclusion of which was Caboose crashing into Greaseball and Electra. The three of them then sang "One Rock 'n' Roll Too Many", rearranged with choreography that was more slapstick and less sexual innuendo laden. "Only He" was completely scrapped, replaced with an expanded "Only You". AC/DC was Electra's only solo with "No Comeback" cut.

Australiasian tour

The tour ran from 15th November 1987 to 29th May 1988, a large-scale, "in-the-round" production that toured sports arenas.

  • Tokyo: 15th November - 11th December 1987
  • Osaka: 24th December 1987 - 10th January 1988
  • Sydney: 24th January - 28th February 1988
  • Brisbane: 6th March - 20th March 1988
  • Melbourne: 27th March - 14th April 1988
  • Adelaide: 21st April - 8th May 1988
  • Perth: 18th May - 29th May 1988

Bochum, Germany

On June 12 1988, a production opened at a specially built venue, the Starlighthalle in Bochum, Germany. As of April 2008, it is the only permanent production playing. It has been seen by more than 12 million people as of March 2008

The Starlighthalle was built especially for the production in an extraordinary time of less than one year. Both the special building and record breaking build time were documented in the Guinness Book of Records. The Starlighthalle was specially designed for the show, with large tracks on two levels in a U-like shape with the audience sitting in the middle and around these tracks. On stage the tracks even run over three levels which allows several race combinations. In 2003 a 'Y' shaped track was added to the smallest inner track, the Parkett, dividing it into 3 seating areas and allowing greater flexibility of staging and more tricks for the skaters. A good impression of the Starlighthalle can be seen on the official website from a 360° panorama view and lots of high resolution pictures from the show, featuring the current cast.

In March 2008, Starlight Express ran a talent competition with German Television to find the next Rusty and Pearl. The show started on 31st of March and was called 'Musical Showstar 2008'. The competition was won by Kevin Köhler and Anna-Maria Schmidt. Ms. Schmidt since dropped out of training, however Kevin Köhler premiered as Rusty on 1st August 2008.

The show advertises as "Das rasanteste Musical im Universum!" ("The fastest Musical in the Universe!")

Plot Revisions

The Bochum production, while a descendant of Broadway, reverted quite a lot to London, including some of the later London changes. The Broadway race structure remained, but in the interests of patriotism, Weltschaft (soon re-named Ruhrgold) the German engine was swapped with Bobo the French engine, so that he was in the final race. This did lead to the odd staging of Ruhrgold pulling Ashley and Buffy around for "The Rap", as Bobo (paired with Ashley for the race) had before and the tracks had simply swapped. Belle was entirely removed, having been proved incompatible with the four-race structure on Broadway. They began with 4 Rockies, but soon reverted back to 3. Rocky IV can now be seen in the foyer, along with Weltschaft, cast in bronze. The production remained mostly unaltered artistically until recent years.

Originally, the opening overture and skate round remained from London, but the running order bore more relation to Broadway. The Broadway song "Engine of Love", translated to "Liebesexpress", introduced Rusty and the Coaches rather than "Call Me Rusty". "Ne Lok mit Locomotion" ("A Lotta Locomotion") remains in the style of the Original London, with all four coaches singing. "Pumping Iron" comes after "AC/DC", as a direct challenge from the current champion to the newcomer. "Hilf Mir Verstehn" ("Make Up My Heart"), as Broadway, followed, with Pearl eventually opting for Electra.

In 2003, the late London song "Crazy" was put into the show between "Pumping Iron" and "Hilf Mir Verstehn", with "Liebesexpress" ("Engine of Love"), which fulfills much the same purpose, greatly shortened. At the same time "Allein im Licht der Sterne" ("Next time you fall in love") replaced "Du Allein" ("Only You"). The Late London style "Megamix" was added to the end of the show, though the excerpts from the show's songs are not in the same order.

October 2006 saw the assimilation of the second US tour Hip Hoppers, replacing the Rockies. In 2007 the Rap was altered again, adding the beginning of the UK Tour version, and the Rockies were replaced by the rapper Hip Hoppers. Pyrotechnical effects can be seen when Electra enters and Greaseball skates at high speed.

In 2008, the "Overture" was replaced by "The Entry of the National Trains" (moved from prior to "AC/DC"). "Engine of Love" was cut completely, with the melody recycled for Pearl's ballad "He'll Whistle at Me", in a new German translation. To replace "Engine of Love", the shortened version of "Call Me Rusty" has been introduced. "There's Me" has been cut. The title song has been reworked to "When the night is darkest..." version. "The Rap" is now the "It's Race Time" version. The final duet between Rusty and Pearl has been re-worked to the UK tour version of "Only He".

Japanese tour

Starlight Express returned to Japan from March 24 - July 18, 1990 in a revival of the 1987-1988 production.

US Tour

The first US Tour, a downscaled production directly descended from Broadway, ran in the U.S. and Canada from November 1989 - September 30, 1990. The set included a small loop of track into the audience, and the races were pre-recorded video mixed with live action.

Las Vegas

The Las Vegas production opened on September 14 1993, an abridged, 90-minute production without an intermission at the Las Vegas Hilton, where it ran until 30th November 1997. This production was the first legit musical theatre permanent production in Las Vegas, and concessions were made in the form of the shortened runtime and betting references in the race sequences. Also the Coaches' costumes were given an unmistakable "Vegas Showgirl" makeover. The show attracted a strong family audience, not spending much money in the casino, and the show was replaced with Star Trek: The Experience in 1997.

Starlight On Ice

A completely re-designed production by Feld Entertainment performed Starlight Express on Ice, touring the United States from September 6th 1997 - February 1st 1998. This movement-heavy production featured figure- and stunt-skaters miming to a pre-recorded backing while performing complex routines. It failed to find its target audience and folded halfway through the scheduled tour.

Expreso Astral

From October 1997 until April 1998, a Spanish-language production played at the Teatro Polanco in Mexico City. A cast recording was made but, owing to complications with the rights, it never was released.

2nd US tour

Following the closure of the London production, Starlight Express: The Third Dimension, a touring production opened in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was a downscaled and shortened version of the show, with further revisions to the material by American composer David Yazbek. Owing to the restrictions of touring theatres, digital video company Inition were commissioned to produce high-definition race footage in 3-D film to replace the live racing.. The show ran from April 1 2003 until June 13, 2004.

UK tour

The UK Tour of Starlight Express opened on the 4th of December, 2004 in Manchester. Adapted from the second U.S. tour with some reversions to the "New" London production, including much of David Yazbek's contribution being removed after Andrew Lloyd Webber saw it performed on stage. In November 2007 the production toured Stockholm, Gothenburg, Oslo and Helsinki, using an expanded set designed for use in stadium venues. The last performance was on March 2008, in Plymouth.

The production advertised using the following slogans -

  • You'll Be Steaming If You Miss It
  • The Race Is On
  • Steaming back!

New Zealand Tour 2009

Following the end of the UK tour in March 2008, the expanded stadium set and properties were shipped to New Zealand to form a new production. Dates in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland have been confirmed for July/August 2009.

  • Wellington : July 1st - 7th 2009
  • Christchurch: July 11th - 19th 2009
  • Auckland: July 25th - August 9th 2009

Notable Performers

Awards and nominations

1987 Tony Award nominations

Recordings

Cast Recordings/Albums

  • 1984 Original London Cast Recording
  • Excerpts from Starlight Express: The Original Cast
  • 1987 US Concept Album: Music and Songs From Starlight Express
  • 1987 Japan/Australia Tour Highlights Album
  • 1988 German Original Cast Recording
  • 1989 German Complete Live Recording

  • 1991 German Highlights Album
  • 1993 New London Cast Recording
  • 1997 Mexico City’s Expreso Astral (unreleased)
  • 1984 Original Cast Recording: 2005 Remastered Edition
  • 1989 German Live Recording: 2007 Remastered Edition

Singles

  • Engine of Love/Steaming (1977)
  • I am the Starlight/Starlight Express (1984)
  • AC-DC/The CB Side (1984)
  • Only He (Has the Power to Move Me)/Engine Race (1984)
  • The Race is On (Harold Faltermeyer)/The Race is On (Radio Edit)/The Race is On (Instrumental)/The Race is On (Dub Version) (1987)
  • Er Allein/Ich Bin Wie Ich Bin - Angelika Milster (1988)
  • The Train/Girls’ Rolling Stock (1990)
  • Only You (1992)
  • Next Time You Fall in Love/Make Up My Heart/Mega Mix (1993)
  • Crazy/Starlight Express/Allein Im Licht der Sterne/Mega Mix/Starlight Express (Boy Band Version) (2003)

Television, Film and Other Media

Starlight Express has made countless appearances on TV over the past 24 years, notably;

  • Syesha Mercado of "American Idol 2008" performed the song "One Rock 'N' Roll Too Many" during the show for Andrew Lloyd Webber week.
  • In the UK, Cilla Black's TV show 'Moment Of Truth' (2000) included the London cast of Starlight Express in a family challenge.
  • Matthew Kelly, on his show 'You Bet!', was challenged to dress up as Electra and perform stunts with the cast.
  • Pop singer Kate Nash released a video including the cast skating round the piano as she played (2007).
  • In Germany, the show 'Wunsche Werden Wahr', where kids have their wishes granted, involved Starlight Express three times. One girl dressed up as Pearl and Performed Hilf Mir Verstehn. Another dressed as Dinah and went skating with Greaseball. And thirdly, a small girl dressed as Pearl and performed 'Crazy' with the cast.
  • Pebble Mill, a show with British gardener Alan Titchmarsh, involved five songs from the show - 'the Overture', 'Rolling Stock', 'Starlight Express', 'U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D.', and 'Light At The End Of The Tunnel'. Control announced the entry of 'Mr. Alan Titchmarsh' who - guess what - came in on rollerskates.
  • Car company Ford released a number of commercials with the German cast in 2003. One included a family getting stopped at a train crossing. When the train arrives, it is headed by Rusty with the rest of the cast in tow.
  • In 1992, the cast also made a special appearance at the Royal Variety Performance, performing 'Starlight Express' and 'Light At The End Of The Tunnel'.
  • In 1985, Italian singer/dancer Raffaella Carrà released a video of herself performiong a medley from Starlight Express. The Medley included; Rolling Stock, He Whistled at Me, I am the Starlight, Only He, Baby Iron, There's Me, Light at the End of the Tunnel. The video was based on the original London production, starring Raffaella Carrà as Pearl. The backing dancers and singer were all dressed as characters from the show, though none were on rollerskates except the actor playing Rusty. The set mimicked the London setting.

Railway enthusiast connections

Both Rev Awdry, the writer whose Thomas the Tank Engine books were an original inspiration for the musical, and Richard Stilgoe, the musical's lyricist, are known as significant railway enthusiasts, and there are a number of oblique references in the musical

  • The name "Starlight Express" was taken from an early 1960s British railway service which ran overnight between Glasgow and London. In the days of fixed and regulated fares it unusually offered special cheap prices, and was only run at weekends and holiday times. It only lasted for a few years.
  • The Really Useful Company, Andrew Lloyd Webber's production company, takes its name from various references in Awdry's books to Really Useful Engines and the like. Awdry always capitalised the catchphrases which were devised for his books.
  • Control is a railway organisation in Britain, based at the area head office and behind the scenes, which coordinates the various signalboxes up and down the country and gives out information. Control was an invention of the old Midland Railway, based in Derby, in around 1900, and the concept spread nationally.
  • Rusty is named after one of Awdry's locomotive characters, which is in turn a parody of a real brand of small diesel locomotives (of identical appearance to the one drawn in Awdry's books) manufactured by the Ruston Company, Lincoln, in the 1940s-1960s. They had a prominent "Ruston" manufacturers badge/nameplate across the front of the locomotive which would be noticed by children.
  • Pearl earned her name from Pullman, who name their carrages after precious stones, flowers and plants. 'Pearl' is also the name of a car on the Orient Express.
  • Electra, the Greek God, has been the name for a number of electric railway locomotives over time.
  • AC-DC, as well as a reference to sexual preference, refers to the power supply to electric trains. AC is Alternating Current, normally high voltage and supplied by overhead wires, and common on main lines, while DC is Direct Current, a more traditional approach, often supplied by additional rails alongside the tracks and common on local lines and metro systems. Locomotives have to be constructed to use one or the other, but a few are specially made to be able to operate on both systems. Once known as AC-DC, with the rise of the alternative usage they tend to be known as Dual Voltage nowadays instead.
  • BoBo is a generic technical description of locomotives with a bogie at each end, each having two axles and separate motors. If it has three axles at each end it is known as a CoCo, etc.
  • Belle (eg Brighton Belle) is a longstanding name and individualistic spelling for trains which contain luxury coaches provided by the Pullman Comany, an independent organisation which provided its own carriages and attendants in their distinctive brown and cream livery from Victorian times until the 1960s. These carriages had individual names, the majority of which were girls' names, especially those with a classical reference, and as there was a fleet of several hundred at any one time almost all common names were used; several of them duplicate character names in Starlight.
  • Krupp, in addition to being a German armaments manufacturer, was one of the principal German locomotive manufacturers over many years.
  • Ruhrgold is a parody of the train service named Rheingold, which ran for many years from Hook of Holland in Netherlands to Basel in Switzerland, the bulk of the journey being alongside te River Rhine in Germany. Although not a Pullman train it had many of the exclusive features of such.
  • British electric locomotive "Starlight Express" was given the name at the opening of the musical in a special ceremony at London Euston station. Fittingly of the BoBo type, number 86231, nearly 20 years old when it received the name, it ran from Euston to the north on main line trains for another 20 years before being replaced.

References

External links


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