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Starlight Express – Theatre Royal, Norwich

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lyrics: Richard Stilgoe

Director and Choreography: Arlene Phillips

Reviewer: Lu Greer



starlight expressThe plot of Starlight Express certainly sets it apart from the average Lloyd Webber musical as it tells the tale of a group of toy trains in the mind of a little boy, all of which is brought to life by actors in what seem to be futuristic cyborg inspired train costumes. It seems to be a show with some steam behind it though, with next year marking thirty years since it first arrived on Broadway.

The cast bring to life a variety of coaches, wagons and other engines, all of whom compete in the non to taxing plot of competing to be the fastest and win both the race and the heart of the observation car Pearl. The success of this show however doesn’t need to rely on a plot, nor in truth on the ability of the actors, but instead of the visual tricks and effects with really do make the show breath-taking in places.

In parts, this is certainly a good thing as there several out of sync dances and flat notes from more than one of the actors. This is a problem which is unfortunately highlighted in the number He’ll Whistle At Me sung by Pearl (Amanda Coutts), as the number which should be understated and touching becomes bizarre when sung with a permanent and slightly too wide smile.

The trio of Dinah (Ruthie Stephens), Duvay (Kelsey Cobban) and Buffy (Camilla Hardy) on the other hand bring a series of strong voices and well-timed comedy moments to the show, particularly in U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D. It is Mykal Rand as Electra though who really brings the, excuse the pun, electricity to the show. While the rôle of a neon coloured electric train was never going to be emotionally taxing, Rand delivers the rôle with just the right amount of swagger, sass and a little bit of sarcasm.

The combinations of some impressive light shows (Harrison Cooke) and spectacular costumes (Scott Sheady) bring the show to life in an impressive display of frantic light and colour. The problem, however, comes from the age of the show. When the show first hit the stage in 1984 the issue of electric trains would have been relevant, and characters such as the Hip Hoppers would have seemed cool but are now too cartoonish and outdated. Now though, some of the songs sound old and the characters out of touch.

Overall, the plot is predictable, the songs a little old fashioned and the message behind the story now irrelevant. However, for a good night out full of incredible costumes, breath taking light tricks and a whole lot of eighties nostalgia Starlight Express is second to none.

Runs Until: April 20th

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