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Starlight Express - Review

This is a review of Starlight Express from 2002. The musical will return to London at The Other Palace in September 2017. Click here for more information. 

Review of the last night by 12th January 2002

Starlight Express first opened on 27th March 1984 and had since become the second longest running musical in the West End after Cats, and so many of its fans are mourning the shows demise at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.

Whether you like it or not there is no denying that a show that runs for eighteen years has to be something special and Starlight Express is that. It has some breathtaking skating routines and terrific songs, a truly great action packed spectacle and now it has gone I feel the West End has lost some of its diversity and maybe a little of its energy.

The last night was an emotional one for everyone - audience, performers and backstage staff alike. This is probably why the show was not at its best and there were some lacklustre performances, particularly poor was Trevor Michael George as 'Poppa', who was straining on the high notes, either he was overcome with emotion or he had a bad throat? However, nothing was wrong with Mark McGee as 'Rusty'. He has an incredibly powerful voice and boy does he blast it out!

However, the performance did not matter too much as everyone was just enjoying the moment of being part of something special. I must admit to feeling emotional myself, even though I'm not a great fan of this musical, which shows by the fact I've only seen the show four times, many others in the audience have seen it tens of times, some hundreds. You could spot the real fans as many of them were wearing their various Starlight Express costumes, giving the place a party atmosphere.

Andrew Lloyd Webber took to the stage as the final curtain fell on his musical along with Trevor Nunn (Director), Arlene Philips (Choreographer), Richard Stilgoe (Lyricist), John Napier (Designer) and David Hersey (Lighting). After a standing ovation from the audience, Lloyd Webber said that Starlight Express would continue, in the near future, with a national tour and said: "I promise it's never going to go away at all for any length of time. We will find a way of doing it again."

Lloyd Webber wrote the show for his two children who are now in their 20s. They were both at the final performance. He said the objective of the musical was to attract young children to the theatre and in this Starlight excelled.

The show ended at the Apollo Victoria in London after 7,406 performances and had attracted more than eight million people and taken in excess of £140 million at the box office.

I felt privileged to witness the last night of this great musical and feel the West End will miss this show, but of course not for long and that is the strength of the theatre capital of the world.

(Darren Dalglish)

Some other Statistics as of 12th Jan 02....

27,600 pairs of skate laces, 27,000 skate wheels, 23,000 toe stops and 5,500 false eyelashes have been used since the show opened.

The original London production cost £2.25m to put on, used 750 gallons of paint and varnish, six miles of timber, two and a half acres of sheet wood and 60 tonnes of steel.

Among the most dedicated fans are the Pearson family, who allegedly watched the show every week for the last five years, and Sally Bliault, from Jersey, and Keryna Thorne-Booth who has seen over 800 performances.

An estimated 16.5 million people have watched the show in the UK, United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Germany and Mexico.

More than £140m has been taken at the London box office, with a further £310m earned worldwide.

24 people have appeared on stage every night, with more than 200 involved in putting the show on.

The top speed recorded by a skater was 40 mph during a rehearsal.

In November 1992, every aspect of the production was re-worked. The show was re-directed, re-choreographed, re-lit and the set was refurbished.

Review by Darren Dalglish
4th Oct 97

Originally published on

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