Theatre Review: Starlight Express at Bournemouth International Centre, 9th August 2012

Ok, I know this was a while ago – slapped wrists for me for getting behind – but I have wanted to add my two cents on the lastest touring production of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Starlight Express since I went to see it last month. I’ve seen this show, I think, twice before, each time was the touring production, but the friend I went along with this time had seen the show in London, so it was great to hear from her how it differed.

So, the basic premise of the show is that it takes place as a child disobeys his mother and continues to play with his model trains while he should be asleep. He creates a world where the trains must race each other to become ‘the fastest engine in the world’.

There is a cast of great characters, including Greaseball the diesel train, Electra the electric train and Rusty the old steam train. They are accompanied by Pearl, Dinah, Buffy and Duvay who are passenger coaches and Dustin, the Rockys and the little red caboose who are various other trucks. All the actors perform on roller-skates, adding another dimension to the show (the will-they-won’t-they fall over game is always a must).

As this is a touring show which must fit into various different-sized theatres, all of the racing is done through 3D video which actually is done pretty well – you are advised to ‘put your safety goggles on’ at various points. The racing in the original production was done throughout the auditorium but this is just not possible so the video is a good substitute.

It’s clear from the beginning who we should be rooting for to win the race and find their way to being the Starlight Express, so I won’t ruin it for you, but just say that although it may seem a bit childlike, Starlight Express is a really lovely show, which I’d happily see again. The musical numbers are for the most part likeable and memorable and for the adults in the room, some of the lyrics are really funny.

The only thing that stood out to me in this production as opposed to the others I’d seen is that the coaches used to be called Pearl, Dinah, Buffy and Ashley, with Ashley being a smoking car. In this production, where smoking is clearly less acceptable, Ashley is magically transformed into Duvay the sleeper car. I’m not sure I agree with the old political correctness here, but then again, Ashley’s costume was all decorated with fags, so maybe they’ve made the right call!

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