Composer: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Choreographer &Director: Arlene Phillips
Lyrics: Richard Stilgoe
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
For the next fortnight in Milton Keynes what a treat! …. Starlight Express, the sparkling new 3D production has rollered into the theatre. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s futuristic story of hope and love when confronted by all that life can throw at you, has amazing speed skating, dynamism with some famous hit songs and it is non-stop glitz for nigh on two hours! First opening at the Apollo Victoria in London in 1984, it has developed over time with productions being taken to Broadway, to Japan and to Australia. Thus Starlight Express:The 3rd Dimension (its proper title) is the latest re-incarnation of one of the West End’s longest lasting musicals, with only the very different but equally successful Les Miserables able to compete for a longevity award.
Starlight Express recounts the tale of a group of toy trains in the fertile mind of a young boy. A child’s imagination takes over and the young boy, who seems to be known as ‘Control’, announces that the annual race to decide the best and fastest engine will begin … and there’s more than a few surprises and, of course, a little moral tale.
Everyone loves an underdog and Rusty the steam engine fits the bill. Belittled by his faster and more elegant colleagues and generally shunted to one side, he makes a living shunting trucks and coaches around. This is his story and the rôle of Rusty is very well performed by Kristofer Harding, who has good stage presence and a very powerful voice. His Starlight Express solo at the end of the first act and reprieved in the second, is wonderful, especially with the added light effects latterly. His duet with Pearl, I Do, also has nice harmonies. The rôle of Pearl is taken on by Amanda Coutts, who has a strong, if occasionally strident voice. She has plenty of stage presence but does not seem to exhibit much change of emotion. Elektra, the very camp and funny engine, is portrayed brilliantly (in every sense) by Mykal Rand and boy can he spin! Jamie Capewell brings us the arrogant and cocky Greaseball, or should it be Slimeball. He is convincing, with solid vocals and he does an extremely good comedic turn in the trio rendition of One Rock n Roll Too Many with Elektra and Red Caboose. The latter part is played by Stuart Armfield, who makes it a typical panto-style slightly manic baddy. Poppa, the old steam engine, is charmingly delivered by Lothair Eaton, who he has a lovely gravelly voice which suits the rôle. Ruthie Stephens’ Dinah, the dinner carriage, is well performed with great comic timing and facial expressions. Her U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D. was very amusing and a witty pastiche of Dolly Parton’s D.I.V.O.R.C.E.
All the skaters are talented but particularly the Hip Hoppers, who leap around and perform a whole range of tricks.
Arlene Phillips’ choreography is commendable – having over twenty roller skaters moving on a small stage is some achievement but to also have scene-shifters, aka the race officials, moving skateboarding ramps around as well as whizzing up and down them at high speed doing aerial spins and somersaults, is awesome. As well as having to sing, dance and project themselves on stage, the actors also have to rollerskate!
The music is live, always a plus, but is at times a tad loud so one cannot always hear the words of the songs. The 3D effects are clever but do not necessarily add much to the show.Special mention should go to the very effective and dazzling lighting by Harrison Cooke and the spectacular costumes designed by Scott Sheady, which both add immensely to the overall effect.
All in all a very enjoyable evening of good old family entertainment. The children loved it.
Runs until Sat 4 May 2013
Picture: Eric Richmond