Starlight Express ★★★★ Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre | Jun 8, 2024 - Feb 16, 2025

That light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train! Starlight Express rolls onto the stage with an amazing purpose-designed set by Tim Hatley and some absolutely eardrum shattering sound. This revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's train tale, which is acted on roller skates, is bigger and brasher than ever. The hare versus tortoise race story has been tweaked a little from the original, but there was never much narrative depth here and the train engine characters are completely one dimensional. The addition of the Hydra character, as a nod to the greens, doesn't really add much to the classic steam, diesel, electric contest, or to the show's content. However, if one can put such plot and character issues aside and just enjoy the ride, this production proves to be a lot of fun. It is all about the theatrical spectacle! The choreography on skates is extremely clever and Andrzej Goulding's video and Howard Hudson's lighting are simply spellbinding. Gabriella Slade's costumes are wonderfully over-the-top, even if it is a bit of a challenge to relate them to the trains. On this wild ride, Lloyd Webber covers a lot of musical ground from rap to blues to rock 'n' roll, and aside from the signature tune, there are a couple of musical moments that shine through the relentless visual onslaught. Jade Marvin manages to command the stage whenever she appears and her "Momma's Blues," and Eve Humphrey's country lament "U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D" were terrific. In the end, Starlight Express is a celebration of some rather old-fashioned values even as it transforms a rather humble fable into a lavish extravaganza.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Pamela Raith

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