|First performance 27 March 1984||Playwright Richard Stilgoe|
|Lyrics Richard Stilgoe
Don Black (additional)
David Yazbek (additional)
Nick Coler (additional)|
Productions 1984 West End 1987 Broadway 1987 Japan & Australia tour 1988 Bochum, Germany 1989 U.S. Tour 1990 Japan tour 1993 Las Vegas 1997 Mexico 1997 On Ice 2003 U.S Tour 2004 UK & Nordic Tour 2009 New Zealand Tour 2012 UK Tour 2013 Johannesburg 2013 Hong Kong, Singapore
Characters Ruhrgold, Greaseball the Diesel
Lyricists Andrew Lloyd Webber, Richard Stilgoe, Don Black, David Yazbek
Composers Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Yazbek
Similar Andrew Lloyd Webber plays, Musicals
From starlight express words by richard stilgoe music by andrew lloyd webber starlight express b
Starlight Express is a rock musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber (music), Richard Stilgoe (lyrics), with later revisions by Don Black, David Yazbek, Alistair Lloyd Webber and Nick Coler. The actors famously perform wearing roller skates, with original choreography by Arlene Phillips. In the story, a child’s train set magically comes to life, and the various engines compete to become the "Fastest Engine in the World". The underdog, Rusty the steam train, has little chance until he is inspired by the legend of the Starlight Express, ultimately winning both the race and the heart of first-class coach Pearl.
- From starlight express words by richard stilgoe music by andrew lloyd webber starlight express b
- Starlight express rolling into west potomac hs on april 28th
- Musical numbers
- West End
- Bochum, Germany
- First US Tour
- Las Vegas
- Second US tour
- First UK, Nordic and New Zealand tours
- Second UK Tour
- Other productions
- Awards and nominations
It is one of the longest running musicals in West End history, with 7,408 performances; however, the Broadway production ran for only 761 performances. It is also the most popular musical show in Germany, where it has been performed continuously since 1988.
Starlight express rolling into west potomac hs on april 28th
During the 1970s, Lloyd Webber planned a musical adaptation of Rev W. Awdry's Railway Series books, featuring Thomas the Tank Engine. However, Awdry refused to give Lloyd Webber permission to use his characters as he felt that Lloyd Webber wanted 'too much freedom' with Thomas, the other engines, and characters. Following this, Lloyd Webber re-conceived the idea as "a Cinderella story" in which Rusty stands for Cinderella; Greaseball and Electra become the stepsisters; and the Starlight Express is the fairy godmother.
The following is a synopsis of the Original London production
The show opens with the voice of Control (whom the audience never sees) ordering his toy trains to racing mode. As Control begins to fall asleep, still murmuring his instructions, the trains begin to skate around the track (Overture). Greaseball and his gang of diesel trains interrupt, singing their own praises (Rolling Stock). Greaseball dares anyone to challenge him in a race.
The downtrodden steam engine Rusty appears, only to be ridiculed by Greaseball and his gang. Undeterred, he defiantly dreams of winning the championship race (Call me Rusty). The coaches question Rusty's ability to race, before introducing themselves – Ashley is the smoking car, Buffy is the buffet car, Dinah is the dining car, while Pearl is new on the scene and willing to try anything (A Lotta Locomotion).
Greaseball returns with the 2nd and 3rd class sleepers in tow, again boasting of his own greatness (Pumping Iron). Rusty counters, bringing on the freight cars - Rockies 1, 2 and 3, Flat Top, Dustin and C.B. (Freight). The National Engines arrive - Bobo from France, Espresso from Italy, Ruhrgold from Germany, Turnov from Russia, Hashamoto from Japan and The City of Milton Keynes from Great Britain – and prepare for the first heat (Entry of the National Trains). Suddenly Electra, the Electric Train, makes a surprise late entry. Electra is as much of a show-off as Greaseball, and suggests that he will take either male or female partners (AC/DC). 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. Pearl dreams of racing with a steam train, but Rusty falls short of her expectations (He'll Whistle at Me). Pearl leaves Rusty unconnected and goes off to race with Electra.
In the first heat, Greaseball – racing with Dinah – cheats, bullies and forces his way ahead of Hashamoto and Espresso. Dinah isn't happy about cheating, and confronts Greaseball. He knocks her to the floor and leaves her, despite her pleas and apologies. C.B. congratulates him on a good race and, seeing that Dinah is alone, comforts her (There's Me). Poppa, a retired champion steam engine, enters (Poppa's Blues). He sees that Rusty is forlorn, as he doesn't want to race with anyone other than Pearl. To persuade him that he can still race and win, Poppa introduces him to Belle, the sleeping car, with whom he used to race. (Belle, the Sleeping Car). Rusty asks her to race with him, and she accepts.
In heat two, Rusty loses to Electra – racing with Pearl – and Ruhrgold. Utterly disheartened, Rusty returns to the scrapyard where Poppa urges him to trust in the Starlight Express; however Rusty is skeptical. To prove his existence, Poppa announces that he is going to race, despite all the places in the third heat being taken. Suddenly, and apparently through divine intervention, Control announces a vacancy – the British engine has been scrapped. Taking this as a sign from the Starlight Express, Poppa pairs up with Dustin – the only freight truck who will go with him – and races.
Poppa wins the third heat by a very narrow margin ahead of Bobo and Turnov; however the race nearly kills Poppa and there is no way he can race again in the final. He begs Rusty to take his place. Unsure of what to do, Rusty asks the Starlight Express for help (Starlight Express).
The trains all gather to argue whether Rusty should be allowed to take Poppa's place in the final (The Rap). It is eventually decided that Rusty can race instead of runner-up Bobo. Greaseball, having dumped Dinah, invites Pearl to switch sides and race with him, to which Pearl agrees. Dinah worries that she will be the subject of ridicule due to her newly single state, yet vows that she will never forgive Greaseball (U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D.). Belle, Buffy and Ashley persuade her to cheer up and try to get her man back by being more active, aggressive and manipulative. (Rolling Stock (Reprise)). Shortly thereafter Electra invites Dinah to race with him, and she accepts, hoping to make Greaseball jealous. C.B., who has agreed to race with Rusty in the final, meets Electra and admits to causing all the major train crashes in recent history (C.B.). He agrees to fix the race so that Electra wins.
The 'Uphill Final' is a dead heat between Electra and Greaseball, after C.B deliberately causes Rusty to miss a vital connection. When Pearl discovers this and threatens to inform the race marshall, Greaseball reminds her that she'll also be disqualified. Lamenting that this wasn't how she wanted things to go, she stays quiet. C.B. taunts Rusty, saying that he never stood a chance in the first place.
The Rockies let Rusty in on an unfortunate truth: if you aren't lucky, you'll never win – arguably a complaint about racism, as the Rockies and both steam engines are black and therefore automatically at a disadvantage (Right Place, Right Time). Rusty once more begs the Starlight Express to help him, and this time gets an answer (Starlight Sequence). Rusty is encouraged to discover that he himself is the Starlight Express. Rusty stumbles across Dustin and asks to race with him in the final, and Dustin readily agrees. Dinah, meanwhile, is fed up with racing. She expects a train to whistle at her, and Electra can't, so she disconnects him (He Whistled at Me (Reprise)). 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 too distracted by their own rivalry that Rusty is able to steal the lead. Greaseball realises that Pearl is holding him back and uncouples her, so Rusty stops to save her from crashing. Greaseball takes the lead – but has no partner, in violation of the rules, so he attempts to take C.B. from Electra. The two engines struggle, again allowing Rusty to take the lead and win the race. Greaseball, Electra and C.B. however veer into a tunnel and crash.
Electra rages about the unfairness of his losing, then leaves the rest of the trains for good (No Comeback). Greaseball and C.B. begin to face the consequences of their actions (One Rock 'n' Roll Too Many). Rusty, meanwhile, has yet to claim his title, so Poppa demands that Greaseball take them to where he left Pearl, as Rusty is bound to be there.
Alone, Pearl 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 (Only He). Rusty finds her and forgives her instantly (Only You). The others eventually arrive, and Buffy and Ashley reflect on how lovely it is when they see romance on the railroad. Greaseball apologises to Dinah, and she, forgetting her anger, instantly takes him back. Poppa tells Greaseball that he can be converted to steam, allowing him to be under his own control – at which point Control orders the trains to obey him, and do what they're told. Collectively they tell him to 'shut it' before Poppa, Belle and all the trains celebrate the power of steam (Light at the End of the Tunnel).
The Voice-over Characters
The Freight Trucks
Lloyd Webber's score features a variety of different musical styles, similar in manner to his earlier show Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. For the performers it can also be challenging, require baritones to sing top G, and a soprano to sing high D in the song 'AC/DC'. Between them vocalists Teresa Revill and Anna De Vere sang this note several thousand times throughout the run of the London production.
Original London production, 1984
Revisions in later productions
In later productions, the following songs are generally deleted:
In their place, the following new numbers are sometimes included:
There are two versions of the title song having different melodies and lyrics for the verses. There also been three different versions of "The Rap":
Starlight Express features a unique element to the performance in the use of roller skates. The cast are trained for 2–3 months in roller skating before they begin performances, so no prior experience is required. 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 dance routines 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.
The West End production, directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Arlene Phillips opened on 27 March 1984 at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, where it ran for 7,406 performances, closing on 12 January 2002. Original cast members included Stephanie Lawrence, Frances Ruffelle, Jeff Shankley, Jeffrey Daniel and Ray Shell. The set featured several race tracks that extended into and around the auditorium and up to the balcony, as well as a six-tonne steel bridge which lifted and tilted to connect the various levels of the set.
In November 1992, the London production was re-launched with major revisions and renamed The New Starlight Express. Numerous changes from subsequent productions were incorporated, including five new songs ("Crazy", "He'll Whistle at Me", "Make Up My Heart", "Next Time You Fall in Love", "The Megamix") and the removal of twelve others (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"). The "Entry of National Trains" was moved to the opening of the show. "He Whistled at Me" was slowed down to become "He'll Whistle at Me" and moved to earlier on in the show, and "Make Up My Heart" took its original place. "Pumping Iron" was moved to after "AC/DC". "The Rap" was completely re-written to become an anthem to racing. The new song "Next Time You Fall In Love" featured lyrics by Don Black.
As a second finale, "The Megamix" was added, consisting of short reprises of many of the songs in the show.
Belle, having proved incompatible with the shorter 4-race system on Broadway, was cut, as was C.B. Cutting C.B. required substantial changes to the plot as without a clear villain, Rusty, Electra and Greaseball had to cause their own problems or be the victims of circumstance to move the story along. Despite his removal, the lighting design never changed, and his spotlight still came up in "Freight" right up to the last performance of the show. 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. After the Uphill Final, when Dinah uncouples Electra, with no C.B. he partners Buffy instead for the Downhill Final. At the end of the race, Electra and Greaseball now crashed accidentally, and Electra took C.B.'s place in "One Rock 'n' Roll Too Many".
The Broadway production, again directed by Trevor Nunn, opened on 15 March 1987 at the Gershwin Theatre, where it ran for 761 performances. Due to the design of the Gershwin Theatre, the set could not extend into the auditorium as it did in London, Instead, the race tracks spiraled up around within the considerably wide and high proscenium arch. The set featured American scenes and place names giving a sense of location to each part of the track.
This version featured extensive revisions to the plot and the addition and omission of several musical numbers. Rather than racing simply for the accolade "Champion Engine of the World", the trains raced for the "Silver Dollar" (a trophy in the form of a giant American dollar coin). 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 renamed) 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.
The "Entry of National Engines" was moved to the beginning of the show, in the place of the overture. The song "Engine of Love" was used instead of "Call Me Rusty". "A Lotta Locomotion" no longer included Pearl, while "He Whistled at Me" was replaced with the ballad "Make Up My Heart." "Pumping Iron" was moved to after "AC/DC", and many of the ensemble characters were subsequently changed. C.B. became known as Red Caboose, and "There's Me" became a duet with Dinah. "The Rap" was also completely re-written, "No Comeback" was cut and "Only He" was replaced with an expanded version of "Only You".
Initially, Rusty appeared during the "Downhill Final" dressed as the Starlight Express, with none of the other trains recognizing him. After the race, Caboose stole the "Silver Dollar", resulting in a lengthy slapstick chase. This sequence was later removed during the course of the run. A brief reprise of "Make Up My Heart" was also removed during previews.
On 12 June 1988, a production opened at a specially built venue, the Starlighthalle (today called Starlight Express Theater) in Bochum, Germany, directed by Dion McHugh. As of 2017, it is the only permanent production still running today, and is the most popular musical in Germany, having been seen by more than 15 million people as of 2015. The show advertises as "Das rasanteste Musical im Universum!" ("The fastest musical in the universe!").
The Starlighthalle's special design and construction time of less than one year is documented in the Guinness Book of Records. It features large tracks on three levels in a U-like shape with the audience sitting in the middle and around these tracks. In 2003 an extra track was added, allowing greater flexibility of staging and more tricks for the skaters.
In March 2008, the production ran a talent competition called 'Musical Showstar 2008' on German television to find the next Rusty and Pearl. The competition was won by Kevin Köhler and Anna-Maria Schmidt. Schmidt dropped out of training, but Köhler premiered as Rusty on 1 August 2008.
The Bochum production featured elements of both the London and Broadway productions, including some of the later London changes. The Broadway race structure remained, but in the interests of nationalism, Weltschaft (later Ruhrgold) the German engine was swapped with Bobo the French engine, so that he was in the final race. Belle was entirely removed, having proved incompatible with the four-race structure on Broadway. They began with four Rockies, but eventually reverted to three.
The songs "Make Up My Heart" ("Hilf Mir Verstehen") and "Engine of Love" ("Liebesexpress") were included, with the latter replacing "Call Me Rusty". "A Lotta Locomotion" ("Ne Lok mit Locomotion") remained in the style of the original London production, while "Pumping Iron" was moved to after "AC/DC".
In 2003, the song "Crazy" was added into the show, while "Liebesexpress" ("Engine of Love"), which fulfills much the same purpose, was 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.
In October 2006 the Rockies were replaced by the Hip Hoppers from the second US tour, and in 2007 the Rap was altered again.
In 2008, the "The Entry of the National Trains" was moved to the beginning of the show. "There's Me" was cut, and "Engine of Love" was replaced by shortened version of "Call Me Rusty". New translations were prepared for "He'll Whistle at Me" and "Only You", which returned in the place of "Make Up My Heart". Additionally, the title song was reworked to the "When your goodnights have been said" lyric, "The Rap" was changed to "It's Race Time", and the final duet between Rusty and Pearl was updated to the UK tour version of "Only He".
In 2013, following the success of the second UK tour, "A lotta Locomotion" was replaced by a new translation of "A whole lotta Locomotion" ("Nie genug (Dafür sind Waggons geboren)"), while "Only He" was replaced by "I Do" (Für immer), a new song written for the UK tour by Lloyd Webber's son Alistair.
First US Tour
A downsized version of the Broadway production, featuring some of the same cast and costumes, toured the US and Canada from November 1989 until April 1991. Rather than scaling the show up to fill stadiums, the set was small enough to fit regular regional theaters. The races were mostly on film, however a small race track extended out into the audience.
An abridged, 90-minute production without an intermission opened at the Las Vegas Hilton on 14 September 1993, with direction by Arlene Phillips and with Reva Rice reprising the role of Pearl. This production was the first permanent legitimate musical theatre production in Las Vegas, however concessions were made in the form of a shortened runtime and betting references in the race sequences. Additionally, partway through the run the Coaches' costumes were given a "Vegas Showgirl" makeover. This production used the filmed race sequences from the first US tour, as well as some of the set pieces. Unlike any other production of the show, it was changed to take place on Christmas Eve, with the voice of Control's mother telling him he has to be asleep ready for the 'big day tomorrow, Christmas Day'. When the hotel changed ownership, the new owners decided to end the run before its 5-year contract concluded, with the show closing on 30 November 1997.
Second US tour
Following the closure of the London production, Starlight Express: The Third Dimension, opened in Biloxi, Mississippi. The show was shortened, with further revisions to the material by 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. This production toured the US from 1 April 2003 until 13 June 2004.
First UK, Nordic and New Zealand tours
The first UK Tour of Starlight Express opened on 4 November 2004 in Manchester, produced by David Ian Productions with direction by Mykal Rand. Originally adapted from the second U.S. tour, much of David Yazbek's contributions were removed after Andrew Lloyd Webber visited a performance.
In November 2007 the production toured Stockholm, Gothenburg, Oslo and Helsinki, using an expanded set designed for use in stadium venues.
Following the end of these tours the expanded stadium set and properties were shipped to New Zealand to form a new production. This production played arenas in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland in July and August 2009, and featured some performers from various other international productions.
Second UK Tour
Bill Kenwright Productions presented a second tour of the UK, beginning at the New Wimbledon Theatre on 10 May, 2012. This production included a new song, "I Do", written by the composer's son, Alistair Lloyd-Webber in place of "Only You" or "Next Time You Fall in Love". Other changes included the character of Ashley The Smoking Car being replaced by Duvay The Sleeper Car, due to the recent British smoking ban, subsequent redundancy of smoking cars, and the general negative public attitude toward smoking. The production reused the race sequences filmed for the first UK tour.
After touring the UK, the production traveled to Hong Kong, where it played at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts from 11 October to 4 November 2013. From there it moved to Singapore, playing at the Marina Bay Sands from 13 November to 24 November 2013.
This version of the show also became the officially licensed version for amateur theatre groups.
A large-scale, "in-the-round" production ran from 15 November 1987 to 29 May 1988, playing stadiums in Australia and Japan. This production later returned to Japan due to popular demand, from 24 March to 18 July 1990.
Starlight Express on Ice
A completely re-designed production by Feld Entertainment's On Ice unit with The Really Useful Co. toured the United States from 000000001997-09-01-0000September 1997—000000001997-10-01-0000October 1997. The production was directed by Robin Cousins and featured figure- and stunt-skaters miming to pre-recorded music. It failed to find an audience and closed halfway through its scheduled tour.
From October 1997 until April 1998, a Spanish-language production directed by Bobby Love played at the Teatro Polanco in Mexico City. Many of the character's names were Hispanicized, with Rusty becoming Ferro, Pearl becoming Perla, Poppa becoming El Jefe, and the National Engines were replaced with Carioca, a Brazilian train, and Pibe, an Argentinian train. A cast recording of this production was made but, owing to complications with the rights, was never released.
South African premiere
The South African premiere took place at the Joburg Theatre, running from July 2 until September 1, 2013. The production was directed by Janice Honeyman with choreography by Karen Bruce. The South African premiere marked the first ever non-replica production of the show.
Awards and nominations
Original London production
Original Broadway production
3Call Me Rusty