Starlight Express

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Starlight Express
1987 Japan/Australia tour Logo
MusicAndrew Lloyd Webber
David Yazbek (additional)
Alistair Lloyd Webber (additional)
LyricsRichard Stilgoe
Don Black (additional)
David Yazbek (additional)
Nick Coler (additional)
Productions1984 West End
1987 Broadway
1987 Japan/Australia tour
1988 Bochum, Germany
1989 U.S. Tour
1990 Japan tour
1993 Las Vegas
1997 Mexico
1997 U.S. tour On Ice
2003 U.S Tour
2004 - 2008 UK & Nordic Tour
2009 New Zealand Tour
2012 UK Tour
2013 Johannesburg
2013 Hong Kong
2013 Singapore
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Starlight Express
1987 Japan/Australia tour Logo
MusicAndrew Lloyd Webber
David Yazbek (additional)
Alistair Lloyd Webber (additional)
LyricsRichard Stilgoe
Don Black (additional)
David Yazbek (additional)
Nick Coler (additional)
Productions1984 West End
1987 Broadway
1987 Japan/Australia tour
1988 Bochum, Germany
1989 U.S. Tour
1990 Japan tour
1993 Las Vegas
1997 Mexico
1997 U.S. tour On Ice
2003 U.S Tour
2004 - 2008 UK & Nordic Tour
2009 New Zealand Tour
2012 UK Tour
2013 Johannesburg
2013 Hong Kong
2013 Singapore

Starlight Express is a rock musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber (music), Richard Stilgoe (lyrics) and Arlene Phillips (choreography), with revisions by Don Black (lyrics, 'Next Time You Fall in Love'), David Yazbek (music and lyrics for the 2nd US tour) and Alistair Lloyd Webber & Nick Coler (composer and lyricist respectively, 'I Do' added for the 2nd UK tour). The story follows a child's dream in which his toy train set comes to life; the actors famously perform wearing roller skates. It is one of the longest running musicals in West End history with 7,406 performances, but the Broadway production only ran for 761 performances. It is the most popular musical show in Germany.[1] A new production toured the UK in 2012, produced by Bill Kenwright Productions.[2]


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 music is mostly in the realm of disco and pop with a few pastiche songs such as the Country and Western styled "U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D.", love duet "Only You" and the title song, "Starlight Express". In some ways this musical could be seen as more of a return to the style of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, although the latter was more varied in its use of musical styles and influences.[citation needed]

Starlight has seen many stars in its cast, notably Jane Krakowski, Jeffrey Daniel (of the R&B/disco group Shalamar), Andrea McArdle, Ray Shell, Stephanie Lawrence, Frances Ruffelle, John Partridge, Rachel Wooding, Greg Ellis, Martyn Andrews, Reva Rice, Oliver Thornton, Jo Gibb, James Gillan, Danny John-Jules, PP Arnold, Lon Satton, Shezwae Powell and Greg Mowry. The show is a spectacle, featuring live stunts by professional skaters and a large racetrack built around the audience.


The plot revolves around a group of toy railway trains, portrayed by actors on roller-skates, who come to life inside the mind of a small boy. The characters race to become the 'fastest engine in the world', and in the end, the underdog, Rusty, triumphs, winning the race and the heart of a beautiful observation car, Pearl.

Original London production, 1984[edit]

Act One[edit]

The musical opens with the disembodied voice of Control (whom we never see), who is playing with his toy trains, ordering all trains to racing mode. As Control falls asleep, still murmuring his instructions, the Overture gently picks up. The music crescendos with the cast emerging in the half-dark to skate around the track, almost comes to a climax but is rudely interrupted by the opening crashes of "Rolling Stock". Greaseball and his Gang of diesel thugs pour onto the stage to sing their own praises, namely that they are rolling stock and very fast. Greaseball dares anyone to challenge him in a race – "this is my back view, and it's all you'll see".

Rusty, the steam train relegated to the sidings, enters, singing that nobody can do it like a steam train. Greaseball and his Gang intimidate him then leave, leaving him to sing his defiant "Call me Rusty" as he brings on the Coaches, dreaming of racing in the championship races and winning. The lyrics play on the ambiguity of "Rusty" being both an adjective and his name, with the theme of "call me Rusty if you like/call me rusty if you dare".

The Coaches question Rusty's ability to race – he isn't fast enough, he isn't strong enough. Rusty exits, leaving the Coaches to introduce themselves with the song "A Lotta Locomotion". Ashley is a smoking car, who has tried to "kick the habit" but can't, Buffy the buffet car offers snacks that are "hot, and cheap, and quick", Dinah is a dining car who'll cook for you, and provide a willing ear for your problems. Pearl is the "Brand new girl", who has agreed in the past to race with Rusty as his partner, but is now having reservations about his ability.

The posturing Greaseball returns, with the 2nd and 3rd class Sleepers (Joule and Volta in quickchange costumes) in tow. Together with the coaches, they all sing "Pumping Iron", another tribute to diesel's, and Greaseball's, greatness.

Rusty brings on the freight train, which consists of the three boxcar Rockies, Flat Top, Dustin and C.B.. After bickering with the Coaches, they introduce themselves with the song "Freight".

At the end of the number the national representatives of France (Bobo), Italy (Espresso), Germany (Ruhrgold), Russia (Turnov), Japan (Hashamoto) and Great Britain (The City of Milton Keynes) arrive, and line up to take their partners for the first heat, but before they can do anything there is a surprise late entry. The lights going out herald the arrival of Electra, the Electric Train, introduced by his five components- Krupp (an armaments truck), Wrench (a repair truck), Purse (a money truck), Volta (a freezer truck), and Joule (a dynamite truck). Electra is as much of a show-off as Greaseball. He sings his own praises in the song "AC/DC", superficially claiming that he can run on either Alternating Current or Direct Current, but also referring to the fact that he will take either male or female partners.

Now all 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. In her indecision over whom to race with, Pearl leaves Rusty unconnected, then sings him the energetic "He'll Whistle at Me" about the engine of her dreams, who is a steam train who whistles at her. She then goes off to race with Electra.

"Heat One" sees Greaseball and Dinah cheat, bully and force their way ahead of Hashamoto and Espresso, racing with C.B. and Buffy respectively.

Dinah isn't happy about cheating, and says as much to Greaseball. He knocks her to the floor and leaves her there, despite her pleas and apologies. C.B. congratulates the pair on a good race, then, seeing that Dinah is alone, sings her the much acclaimed ballad "There's Me".

Poppa enters to much fanfare from the Rockies to sing the blues. "Poppa's Blues" gives us a little tutorial on singing the blues, then Rusty appears, looking downtrodden. Poppa asks him what's wrong, and discovers that unless he can race with Pearl, Rusty is reluctant to race at all. To persuade him that he can still race and win, that there is still hope, Poppa introduces him to another carriage he can race with – Belle, the sleeping car.

Belle, apparently asleep in a coal bunker, wakes and sings "Belle, the Sleeping Car", the story of her life. She formerly raced with Poppa. Rusty asks her to race with him, and she accepts.

In "Heat Two", Rusty loses to Electra (racing with Pearl) and Weltschaft with Joule. Utterly disheartened, Rusty returns to the junkyard where Poppa entreats him to trust in the Starlight Express. Rusty, however, does not believe in the Starlight Express. To prove his existence, Poppa announces that he is going to race. There's just one problem – all the places for Heat Three are taken. Suddenly, and apparently through divine intervention, Control announces a vacancy – the British train 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 – Rocky I was partnered to the City of Milton Keynes, and Flat Top refused) and races.

"Heat Three" is barely won by Poppa, with Bobo coming a close second and Turnov taking up the rear. Although he has won, the race nearly kills Poppa – there is no way he can race again in the final. He begs Rusty to take his place. Unsure what to do, and not believing in its existence anyway, Rusty asks the Starlight Express for help with the song "Starlight Express".

Act Two[edit]

The act opens with "The Rap", in which the gang argues over the validity of Rusty's claim to Poppa's place. After all, he has already raced once and been disqualified – but on the other hand, Poppa has the right to name his successor. It is eventually decided that Rusty will race, rather than runner-up Bobo, partnered with C.B. Greaseball, having dumped Dinah, now invites Pearl to switch sides and race with him instead of Electra. Declaring that it's "only fun", Pearl accepts.

Dinah sings about her newly-single state in the country and western style "U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D.". She mourns that she will be the subject of ridicule from the other trains, but all the same, vows that she will never forgive Greaseball, or take him back.

Belle, Buffy and Ashley persuade her to cheer up and try to get her man back in "Rolling Stock: Reprise" by being more active, aggressive and manipulative. Shortly thereafter, Electra invites Dinah to race with him which, in the name of getting Greaseball jealous, she accepts.

C.B. meets with Electra, and reveals his psychotic and destructive nature with the song "C.B.", in which he admits to causing all the major train crashes in recent history. He agrees to fix the race so that Electra wins.

The "Uphill Final" is a dead heat between Electra and Greaseball, with Rusty held back by C.B, who caused him to miss a vital connection and thus the rest of the race. When Pearl discovers this and declares that she's going to the race marshall to tell them, Greaseball turns nasty on her and tells her that if she does that, she'll be disqualified herself. Lamenting that this wasn't how she wanted things to go, she stays quiet. C.B. taunts Rusty that he's no real engine, and never stood a chance in the first place.

Rusty doesn't get long to feel sorry for himself though, as the Rockies descend to tell him that that's just how things are – no matter how talented you are, if you aren't lucky, you'll never win. "Right Place, Right Time" is arguably a complaint about racism – the Rockies and both Steam trains are black, and are therefore at an automatic disadvantage.

Finally hitting rock bottom, Rusty once more begs the Starlight Express to help him, and this time, in the "Starlight Sequence", gets an answer. The Starlight Express appears and says that it will help him win, and that Rusty is, himself, the Starlight Express. Suddenly he has a lot of faith. As the music (the thwarted climax from the overture) dies away, Rusty hears coughing in the background. It is Dustin, the aggregate hopper. Rusty asks Dustin to race with him in the final race, and Dustin readily agrees.

Dinah is fed up with racing. She expects a train to whistle at her, and Electra doesn'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 not concentrating on the race, instead they are scrapping amongst themselves. Under cover of the row, Rusty takes the lead, only to lose it again when Greaseball realises that Pearl is holding him back and uncouples her, nearly causing her to crash, with Rusty stopping to rescue her from imminent destruction. But now Greaseball has no partner. The rules of the race state that each engine has to race with a coach. His only option is to try to take C.B. from Electra. The engines fight over him, allowing Rusty and Dustin to take the lead and this time they keep it and Rusty is declared the overall champion. Greaseball, Electra and C.B., meanwhile, veer into a tunnel and crash.

His pride beyond wounded, Electra staggers back onto stage, having somehow separated himself from Greaseball and C.B.- minus his wig – and rages about the unfairness of his losing. After singing the musical tirade, "No Comeback", he disappears from the musical, never to be seen again by the audience.

Greaseball and C.B. – what's left of them after the crash – trundle onto the stage to announce that they have had "One Rock 'n' Roll Too Many". The entire cast (minus Rusty, Pearl, Poppa and Dustin) have a good laugh at them. Poppa who then appears demands that Greaseball take them to where he left Pearl, as Rusty is bound to be there, and he hasn't claimed his title yet.

Meanwhile, Pearl, who had secretly left the race, is alone, and sings the power ballad "Only He". Whilst singing, she 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, and fearing that she may have caused him to lose the race; Rusty appears and forgives her instantly, and together they sing "Only You".

Then the rest of the cast descend upon them. Buffy and Ashley reflect on how lovely it is when they see romance on the railroad. Greaseball apologises to Dinah, and, forgetting her anger, she follows Rusty's lead, and instantly takes him back.

Poppa then tells Greaseball that he can be converted to steam, saying that he would then be under his own control – at which point Control orders the trains to obey him, and do what they're told. They tell him to shut it.

Poppa and Belle then lead the company in a rousing rendition of "Light at the End of the Tunnel", a gospel-inspired number singing the praises of steam power. The show then finished with the cast skating round the theatre, greeting the audience, to an orchestral reprise of "Light At The End of the Tunnel".


The Voice-over Characters
The Engines
The Coaches
The Freight Trucks
Electra's Components

Musical numbers[edit]

Original London production, 1984[edit]

Revisions in later productions[edit]

In later productions, the following songs have generally been deleted:

In their place, the following new numbers are generally included:

There are two versions of the title song: starting with either "When your good-nights have been said" or "When the night is darkest", having different melodies for the verses.

"A Lotta Locomotion" was replaced on the US/UK tours with "A Whole Lotta Locomotion", with lyrics by Yazbek. The original melody belonged to an Andrew Lloyd Webber composed song called 'Goodbye Seattle', sung by Paul Gadd, subsequently convicted for child pornography, hence the replacement. There have also been three different raps:


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.


West End[edit]

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.Starlight Express had one of the most spectacular stage sets ever created. As well as the steeply-banked central arena, there were swooping race tracks that extended into and around the theatre's auditorium. One of the set's most dramatic elements was the six-tonne steel bridge. During the show's high-speed races, the bridge lifted and tilted to connect the various levels of the set. This means the actors started racing on a track in the stalls and end up in the dress circle.

Plot Revisions[edit]

In November 1992, the London production, christened The New Starlight Express, was re-launched with heavy revisions to the material, partly influenced by the subsequent productions described below. Five songs ("Crazy", "He'll Whistle at Me", "Make Up My Heart", "Next Time You Fall in Love", "The Megamix") were added, 12 songs (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") and two characters ("C.B." and "Belle") were cut.

Belle, having proved incompatible with the shorter 4-race system on Broadway, was cut along with C.B. Cutting C.B. required a near complete overhaul of the plot (though the lighting design didn't change – his spotlight still came up in "Freight" right up to the last performance of the show), as without a clear cut villain, Rusty, Electra and Greaseball had to cause their own problems or be the victims of circumstance to move the story along.

The "Overture" was scrapped, with the "Entry of National Trains" moved to the opening of the show from its former place following "Freight". The energetic, high speed "He Whistled at Me" was reworked into "He'll Whistle at Me" and moved to earlier on in the show. In its original place was the languid ballad "Make Up My Heart" that was first recorded on a 1987 studio recording. "Pumping Iron" was moved to immediately after "AC/DC", shifting the intention from merely boasting to a direct challenge from Greaseball to the newcomer and cutting off the end of the preceding song. This meant that the 2nd and 3rd class Sleepers were no longer seen, as the performers who had filled those roles were now on-stage as the female Components. 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. Poppa won the second heat with Bobo coming second.

"The Rap" was completely re-written, as the debate – whether or not Rusty should be allowed to race in Poppa's place when he'd already been disqualified – was completely redundant. It became an anthem to how great racing is, rather than an argument. Pearl still switched engines to Electra, leaving Dinah uncoupled. With Belle gone, Ashley and Buffy carried "Rolling Stock (Reprise)" by themselves, allowing them each more vocals. After the Uphill Final, when Dinah uncouples Electra, with no C.B. he partners Buffy instead for the Downhill Final. Rather than being crashed intentionally, Electra and Greaseball crash accidentally at the end of the race. Electra then took C.B.'s place in "One Rock 'n' Roll Too Many", and also took one of Greaseball's spoken lines("You mean I could be converted to steam?" became "D'you think I could be converted to steam?") afterwards to be included in the scene. As a second finale, "The Megamix" was added. It consists of a few phrases from most of the songs in the show, including one that by the end was no longer there – "He'll Whistle at Me" was cut in 1996, but remained represented.

1984 London poster

Starlight Express has had many advertising slogans:


The Broadway production opened on 15 March 1987 at the Gershwin Theatre, where it ran for 761 performances.[4] This version featured extensive revisions to the plot and the addition and omission of several musical numbers. "C.B." at this point lost his name and was henceforth known only as "Red Caboose," and rather than racing simply for the accolade "Champion Engine of the World", the trains raced for a prize, the "Silver Dollar" (a trophy in the form of a giant American Silver Dollar coin.)

Due to the proportions of the Gershwin Theatre, the set could not extend into the auditorium as it did in London, but there was a very wide and high stage to fill. So, the race tracks spiralled up and up and around within the proscenium arch. The set was far more decorated than London, with scenes of America and place names giving a sense of location to each part of the track.

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. It also lead to Belle being entirely cut from the show in later productions, as she served no useful purpose.

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 when Rusty brought the Coaches in near the beginning of the show. Pearl then went off with him before "A Lotta Locomotion", so that it was sung only by Dinah, Buffy and Ashley. "He Whistled at Me" was replaced with the more sedate ballad "Make Up My Heart." "AC/DC" no longer came to a conclusion, but was interrupted by Greaseball with "Pumping Iron", now a direct challenge to the newcomer. Because Electra had already entered with his entourage, the second and third class Sleepers no longer existed. Joule, Volta and Wrench now joined "Pumping Iron" in their places. "There's Me" became a duet between Caboose and Dinah.

"The Rap" was completely re-written as the original, mainly concerning Rusty's predicament, was irrelevant. For the "Downhill Final", Rusty appeared in a new costume as the Starlight Express. None of the other characters recognised him. After the race, Caboose stole the Silver Dollar. The company accuse Rusty of having stolen it, and he consents to being searched if the opposition have to do likewise. This led to a lengthy slapstick chase ("The Chase"), at the conclusion of which was Caboose crashing into Greaseball and Electra. "No Comeback" was cut. The disguised Rusty idea was scrapped during the Broadway run and reverted to Rusty entering the Final as himself, and "The Chase" being cut completely. Greaseball, Caboose, & Electra then sang "One Rock 'n' Roll Too Many", rearranged with choreography that was more slapstick and less sexual innuendo laden. Pearl sang a brief reprise of "Make Up My Heart" ('It's thanks to you that things worked out all right. I knew it from the start. Now I know I've made up my heart.'), however it was cut early in the preview period. "Only He" was replaced with an expanded "Only You", and the show ended with "Light at the End of the Tunnel."

Australasian tour[edit]

The tour ran from 15 November 1987 to 29 May 1988, a large-scale, "in-the-round" production that toured sports arenas.

Bochum, Germany[edit]

On 12 June 1988, a production opened at a specially built venue, the Starlighthalle in Bochum, Germany (Cast List). As of 2013, it is the only permanent production playing, and it is the most popular musical in Germany. It has been seen by more than 14 million people as of March 2012.[5]

The Starlighthalle was built especially for the production in an extraordinary time of less than one year. Both the special building and record breaking build time were documented in the Guinness Book of Records. The Starlighthalle was specially designed for the show, with large tracks on two levels in a U-like shape with the audience sitting in the middle and around these tracks. On stage the tracks even run over three levels which allows several race combinations. In 2003 a 'Y' shaped track was added to the smallest inner track, the Parkett, dividing it into 3 seating areas and allowing greater flexibility of staging and more tricks for the skaters. A good impression of the Starlighthalle can be seen on the official website [1] from a 360° panorama view and lots of high resolution pictures from the show, featuring the current cast.

In March 2008, Starlight Express ran a talent competition with German Television to find the next Rusty and Pearl. The show started on 31 March and was called 'Musical Showstar 2008'. 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 show advertises as "Das rasanteste Musical im Universum!" ("The fastest musical in the universe!").

Plot Revisions[edit]

The Bochum production, while a descendant of Broadway, reverted quite a lot to London, including some of the later London changes. The Broadway race structure remained, but in the interests of nationalism, Weltschaft (soon renamed Ruhrgold) the German engine was swapped with Bobo the French engine, so that he was in the final race. Belle was entirely removed, having been proved incompatible with the four-race structure on Broadway. They began with four Rockies, but soon reverted to three. Rocky IV can now be seen in the foyer, along with Weltschaft, cast in bronze. The production remained mostly unaltered artistically until recent years.

Originally, the opening overture and skate round remained from London, but the running order bore more relation to Broadway. The Broadway song "Engine of Love", translated to "Liebesexpress", introduced Rusty and the Coaches rather than "Call Me Rusty". "Ne Lok mit Locomotion" ("A Lotta Locomotion") remains in the style of the Original London, with all four coaches singing. "Pumping Iron" comes after "AC/DC", as a direct challenge from the current champion to the newcomer. "Hilf Mir Verstehen" ("Make Up My Heart"), as Broadway, followed, with Pearl eventually opting for Electra.

In 2003, the late London song "Crazy" was put into the show between "Pumping Iron" and "Hilf Mir Verstehen", with "Liebesexpress" ("Engine of Love"), which fulfills much the same purpose, 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.

October 2006 saw the assimilation of the second US tour Hip Hoppers, replacing the Rockies. In 2007 the Rap was altered again, adding the beginning of the UK Tour version, and pyrotechnical effects can be seen when Electra enters and Greaseball skates at high speed.

In 2008, the "Overture" was replaced by "The Entry of the National Trains" (moved from prior to "AC/DC"). "Engine of Love" was cut completely, with the melody recycled for Pearl's ballad "He'll Whistle at Me", in a new German translation. To replace "Engine of Love", the shortened version of "Call Me Rusty" has been introduced. "There's Me" has been cut. "Next Time You Fall In Love" (Allein im Licht der Sterne) was removed from the show, seeing the return of "Only You" (formerly "Du Allein", which has since been re-translated to "Nur Mit Ihm"). The title song has been reworked to "When your goodnights have been said" version. "The Rap" is now the "It's Race Time" version. The final duet between Rusty and Pearl has been re-worked to the UK tour version of "Only He".

Japanese tour[edit]

Starlight Express returned to Japan from 24 March – 18 July 1990 in a revival of the 1987–1988 production due to popular demand.

US Tour[edit]

The first US Tour, a downscaled production directly descended from Broadway, ran in the U.S. and Canada from November 1989 – 12 April 1991. Rather than scaling the show up to fill stadiums, the set was small enough to fit regular regional theatres. The races were mostly on film, with the racers zooming out to circle the stage from behind the screen occasionally. The tour was a direct development from the Broadway production, inheriting some of the cast, as well as costumes. The set was obviously very restricted by the necessities of tour, but a small loop of race track extended out into the audience and a start gate/bridge was incorporated into the set design.

Las Vegas[edit]

The Las Vegas production opened on 14 September 1993 in an abridged, 90-minute production without an intermission at the Las Vegas Hilton, where it ran until 30 November 1997. This production was the first legitimate musical theatre permanent production in Las Vegas, and concessions were made in the form of the shortened runtime and betting references in the race sequences. Also partway through the run, the Coaches' costumes were given an unmistakable "Vegas Showgirl" makeover. The Hotel changed ownership in 1997 at which point the new owners decided to end the run before its 5 year contract concluded.

As this production was the direct successor of the US tour, they kept the filmed races from that production. The set was magnificent and complex, with two paddock loops, but without racetracks. They kept the startgate/"bridge" from the U.S tour

The Las Vegas production also brought something to the show that no other production has ever included; the show was set on Christmas Eve. Control is playing with his trains in the opening, until his mother tells him that now that 'your stocking is hung up', he has to be asleep ready for the 'big day tomorrow, Christmas Day'.

Starlight On Ice[edit]

A completely re-designed production by Feld Entertainment performed Starlight Express on Ice, touring the United States from 6 September 1997 – 1 February 1998. This movement-heavy production featured figure- and stunt-skaters miming to a pre-recorded backing while performing complex routines. It failed to find its target audience and folded halfway through the scheduled tour.[6]

Expreso Astral[edit]

From October 1997 until April 1998, a Spanish-language production directed and staged by Bobby Love (after Arlene Philips) 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, etc. Bobo, Espresso and Weltshaft were cut and 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, it never was released.

Second US tour[edit]

Following the closure of the London production, Starlight Express: The Third Dimension, a touring production opened in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was a downscaled and shortened version of the show, with further revisions to the material by American composer 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.[7] The show ran from 1 April 2003 until 13 June 2004.

UK and Nordic tour 2004 - 2008[edit]

The first UK Tour of Starlight Express opened on 4 November 2004 in Manchester, produced by David Ian Productions. Adapted from the second U.S. tour with some reversions to the "New" London production, including much of David Yazbek's contribution being removed after Andrew Lloyd Webber saw it performed on stage. In November 2007 the production toured Stockholm, Gothenburg, Oslo and Helsinki, using an expanded set designed for use in stadium venues. The last performance was on March 2008, in Plymouth.

The production advertised using the following slogans –

New Zealand Tour, 2009[edit]

Following the end of the UK & Scandinavian tours, the expanded stadium set and properties were shipped to New Zealand to form a new production.[8] Dates in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland have been confirmed for July/August 2009.[9]

This production is a sophisticated update of the production first performed in arenas in Scandinavia in late 2007, and features a cast combining previous "Starlighters" from the UK, US and German productions as well as young New Zealand (Kiwi) talent.

Promotional recordings and videos (not for sale) were recorded. The title song "Starlight Express" is sung by Kiwi artist Will Martin, and the romantic duet "Only He" is sung by Martin, and Rebecca Wright played the role of Pearl in this production.

UK Tour 2012[edit]

This production was the second to tour the UK in 2012, produced by Bill Kenwright Productions.[2]

The production started in Wimbledon, London on 10 May, with dates in Liverpool, Aberdeen, Bournemouth, Sunderland and Edinburgh. Production changes include a new song, "I Do", written by the composer's son, Alistair Lloyd-Webber and sung by Rusty and Pearl in place of "Only You" or "Next Time You Fall in Love".

Duvay The Sleeper Car, is introduced as a new female companion car, replacing Ashley The Smoking Car. Duvay is pretty much a straight swap for Ashley, taking Ashley's place in songs and scenes, and also has the same costume (with the only difference being Ashley's chimney headdress being replaced by pillows, which Duvay plumps-up now and then). The revamp of the character is thought to be due to the recent British smoking ban, causing smoking cars to be pretty much redundant these days, the general negative attitude toward smoking and perhaps a sense of it being politically incorrect to glamourise smoking.

The production reuses the race sequences filmed for the first UK tour. Andrew Lloyd Webber watched the production at the Wimbledon Theatre on 12 May. After completing its tour around the UK, it ran from 11 October to 4 November 2013 in Hong Kong, before ending its run in Singapore from 13 November to 24 November 2013.

South Africa[edit]

The original South African production played for a limited engagement at The Mandela at Joburg Theatre, with previews beginning July 2, 2013 and officially opening July 7. The show ran until September 1, 2013. The production was directed by Janice Honeyman and choreographed by Karen Bruce, featuring a brand new all-South African cast. The South African premiere marked the first ever non-replica production of the show.

Hong Kong[edit]

Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, in association with Bill Kenwright Productions, presented the Hong Kong premiere of the show which commenced on October 4, 2013 and scheduled to run until 27 October (extended to 4 November) at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts Lyric Theatre. The production is a transfer of the UK tour, utilizing the same sets and costumes.


The final stop in the UK 2012 tour, the show ran at the Marina Bay Sands resort starting from 13 November and ending on 24 November 2013. Like in Hong Kong, the production was a transfer of the UK tour, using the same sets, props and costumes.

Amateur productions[edit]

The Really Useful Group Ltd. currently licenses the amateur rights to the show to academic groups (secondary schools and universities with a cast under 21 years of age), youth theatre groups (with a cast under 16 years of age) and adult amateur societies (with a cast of all ages.) The licensed acting edition of the show is that of the 2012 UK tour version, including the addition of "I Do" and the full "Starlight Megamix."

Race Structure[edit]

The rules and parameters of the races have varied from one production to another, including the number of heats and who races with whom.

London Original[edit]

The original London production consisted of a three heat/three engine structure, with the winner of each going on to the Final.

Initially a rule was in effect that if an engine or coach had lost a heat they were disqualified from racing again. Though Rusty lost Heat 2 he was permitted to race again when Poppa secured a place in the Final and nominated Rusty to race in his stead. Belle however was still disqualified after losing Heat 2 so Rusty raced with Dustin. Oddly, C.B. should also have been disqualified after losing Heat 1 with Hashamoto yet he raced again twice.


The Bochum production adopted the two heat/four engine structure from the Broadway version, with the first and second place winners going on to the Final.

The disqualification rule, while presumably still in effect, was never questioned in Rusty case as he no longer raced in Heat 2. Caboose again raced twice more despite losing Heat 1. In the Downhill Final Ruhrgold doesn't race again due to a severe crash he sustains in the Uphill Final.

London Revision[edit]

The revised London production followed in the footsteps of Broadway and Bochum, switching to the two heat/four engine race structure, with the first and second place winners going on to the Final.

The disqualification rule seemed to be gone by this point; Buffy, despite losing Heat 1 raced twice more.

US/UK Tour[edit]

The US/UK 3D filmed race sequences switched to a two heat/three engine structure, the winner of each going on to the Final.

Again, the disqualification rule was gone; Caboose lost in Heat 1 but raced again twice.

Note: *In all instances the Uphill Final is aborted mid-race when Caboose (or in London '92, Greaseball) causes a crash. No winner is declared and all the finalists re-race again in the Downhill Final.

Notable cast members[edit]



Las Vegas[edit]

Bochum, Germany[edit]

(Original Cast List)

South Africa[edit]

Touring Versions[edit]


Awards and nominations[edit]

Original London production[edit]

1984Laurence Olivier AwardBest New MusicalNominated
Best Actor in a MusicalLon SattonNominated

Original Broadway production[edit]

1987Tony AwardBest MusicalNominated
Best Original ScoreAndrew Lloyd Webber and Richard StilgoeNominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a MusicalRobert TortiNominated
Best Direction of a MusicalTrevor NunnNominated
Best ChoreographyArlene PhillipsNominated
Best Costume DesignJohn NapierWon
Best Lighting DesignDavid HerseyNominated
Drama Desk AwardOutstanding MusicalNominated
Outstanding MusicAndrew Lloyd WebberNominated
Outstanding Set DesignJohn NapierWon
Outstanding Costume DesignWon


Cast Recordings/Albums[edit]


Various musical numbers from Starlight Express also appear on various Andrew Lloyd Webber and Musical theatre compilation recordings.

Television, film and other media[edit]

Starlight Express has made countless appearances on TV over the past 25 years, notably:

Railway enthusiast connections[edit]


  1. ^ a b "mStarlight Express Tours". Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  2. ^ "Song list". Starlight programme: 12. April 1984. 
  3. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn (20 August 1988). ""Starlight Express" Out of the Tunnel?". NY Times. Retrieved 8 February 2008. 
  4. ^ "12 million". Starlight Express official site. Retrieved 23 April 2008. 
  5. ^ "Feld Entertainment's 'Starlight Express' Fails To Find Niche, Pulled From Road". Retrieved 8 February 2008. 
  6. ^ "Press Release 2005". Inition Website. Retrieved 29 June 2008. 
  7. ^ "Stetson Group". Stetson Group. Retrieved 5 May 2008. [dead link]
  8. ^ "Starlight Express NZ". Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  9. ^

External links[edit]