Andrew Lloyd Webber’s legendary musical Starlight Express returns to London this autumn, as he presents three special concert-style workshop performances.
With a top team of creatives and performers, including the show’s original choreographer Arlene Philips, Lloyd Webber will be working on the score and lyrics of the musical in the week leading up the performances. Once the performances have begun, he will work on the show during the day, taking into account audience feedback.
Starlight Express started out when Andrew Lloyd Webber set about writing a musical based on the characters of Rev W Awdry’s Railway Series, including Thomas the Tank Engine. He reimagined the concept as a “Cinderella”-type story, and wrote the rock musical with Richard Stigloe.
The show opened in the West End in 1984 at the Apollo Victoria. It was directed by Trevor Nunn, and was well-known for its famous choreography, provided by Arlene Philips, which saw the performers travel around the theatre on roller skates on tracks around the auditorium and balcony. The original cast included Stephanie Lawrence, Frances Ruffelle, Jeff Stankley, Jeffery Daniel and Ray Shell. The musical ran at the theatre for over 7,400 performances. It was nominated for the Best New Musical Olivier Award in 1894.
Starlight Express has undergone many revisions over the years. In 1992, the show was rebranded “The New Starlight Express” as a number of new songs were added, with 12 numbers from the original score being removed. In 1992, the show transferred across the Atlantic to Broadway at the Gerschwin Theatre. It ran for just over 700 performances.
The big success story of Starlight Express is in Germany. There, the show has been running in a specially constructed theatre called the Starlighthalle (or the Starlight Express Theatre) since 1988. It is the most popular musical in Germany and has been seen by 15 million people as of 2015. The show was performed in English for the first time at the theatre in 2016. Revisions have taken place to the Bochum version of the show: most recently, a song written by Lloyd Webber’s son Alistair, “I Do” was added following its run out during a UK tour.
With the show’s history of revisions and regularly adapting to the changing world, these concert-style workshop performances will give an insightful look into Andrew Lloyd Webber’s process, as well as offer a rare chance to see this legendary musical back in London.
Starlight Express takes place within a nine-year old boy’s dream in which his toy trains magically come to life. Among them, there’s the fast diesel train Pacific Daylight, Bobo form France, Espresso from Italy, and Rusty, the old steam train. Along with entrants from around the world, the trains race to become the fastest train in the world.