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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. Original cast members included Stephanie Lawrence, Frances Ruffle, PP Arnold, Jeff Shankley, Jeffrey Daniel and Ray Shell. The theatre had been overhauled to include a race track that extended into and around the stalls and around the front of the dress circle.

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lyrics by Richard Stilgoe

Designed by John Napier

Choreographed by Arlene Phillips

Lighting by David Hersey

Sound by Martin Levan

Production Musical Director David Caddick

Orchestrations by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber

Directed by Trevor Nunn

Produced by The Really Useful Theatre Company

Production Specifics

As the original production of a show with almost entirely new material, there was no template for the producers to work from in creating this production. The first few years were unique, as the second production of the show, the Broadway transfer, didn't take place until 1987 and was a heavily revised version of the show. Those first few years included songs, characters and plot points never used subsequently.

The Storyline

The original production of Starlight Express told a fairytale story about the group of toy trains, come to life in a child's dream. The story is told in detail here. The 1984 Cast recording only partially tells the story, with scenes cut for run time and to avoid some spoilers. Also a few features are unique to this early version (Pumping Iron appearing before AC/DC; inclusion of Sleepers; No Comeback)

Song List

Act I

Act II

1988 revisions

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Pumping Iron, featuring 2nd and 3rd class Sleepers

Several songs were replaced in or around 1988, with a few others seeing minor lyric changes. This was done to incorporate revisions from the Broadway production. The exact date that these changes were introduced is not known.

Engine of Love replaced Call Me Rusty, and appeared immediately after Rolling Stock. Following Taunting Rusty Rusty has a few lines with the melody of Call Me Rusty (This is gonna be the day), and, as with Call Me Rusty, the coaches then warn him that he is simply not tough enough to race.

The focus of the coaches' subsequent recitative (Rusty, You Can't Be Serious) changed: as Rusty was no longer onstage, the coaches warn Pearl not to race with Rusty rather than warning Rusty not to race.

Make up my Heart replaced He Whistled at Me, and some events were reordered. In the original version Rusty and Pearl have a discussion, then she sings her song, then Purse invites her to race with Electra. In the updated version Purse invites her to race, then Rusty and Pearl have a discussion, then Pearl soliloquises.

There's Me had some lyrical changes. In particular, the final verse became a duet between CB and Dinah.

Belle's Song had some lyrical changes.

Starlight Express had some lyrical and melodic changes (becoming the version which starts "When the night is darkest" rather than "When your goodnights have been said").

Electra Greaseball Caboose l91

Trio version of "One Rock'n'Roll Too Many", after "No Comeback" was cut, before CB's role was cut.

C.B.'s song had some lyrical changes. A short discussion was also added after the song between CB and Electra. Before the song Greaseball asks CB whose side he is on: in the original version he says "I'm on mine" but in the updated version he tells Greasball "I'm on yours!" and admits to Electra after the song that he is only on his own side.

No Comeback was cut, so One Rock 'n' Roll Too Many had some lyrical changes and became a trio song for CB, Greaseball and Electra.

Only He and Only You (reprise) were replaced with the duet version of Only You.

Some recitative was cut before Light at the End of the Tunnel: Ashley and Buffy no longer reflect on finding love on the railroads, and the company no longer tell Control to "Shut it!".

1992: the New Starlight Express

L93 Electra Components

In November 1992, the London production, christened The New Starlight Express, was re-launched with heavy revisions to the material, partly influenced by the intervening productions. Five songs (Crazy, He'll Whistle at Me, Make Up My Heart, Next Time You Fall in Love, The Megamix) were added from the 1984 Original, 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, and the race structure altered.

Belle, having proved incompatible with the shorter 4-race system on Broadway, was cut from the show. In the Broadway production she simply appeared, sang her solo, then "went back to sleep" and was only seen again at the end of the show, considerably less stage time than in London. 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.

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Greaseball, Coaches, and Components in Pumping Iron

The "Overture" was scrapped, with the "Entry of National Trains" moved from its former place following "Freight" to the opening of the show. The energetic, high speed "He Whistled at Me" had been replaced by the languid ballad "Make Up My Heart" some years before, but was recognised in the 1992 cast recording. A second ballad for Pearl, a re-worked slower version of her original solo, "He'll Whistle At Me", was added after "Lotta Locomotion". "Crazy", an extra up-beat number for Rusty and the coaches was added as Rusty tries to talk Pearl into racing with him. "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 at the end of act 1. Poppa won the second heat with Bobo coming second.

L92 Electra Greaseball

"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 - had become 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. The big 11th Hour love song was replaced with the generic "Next Time You Fall In Love". 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.

Cast Recordings

There were two cast recordings made of the London production - the 1984 Original London Cast, and the 1993 "The New Starlight Express". Both are partial show recordings, the Original Cast Recording gives a sense of the full show with some recit scenes linking the main musical numbers, however large sections of plot are seamlessly removed from the double album. The New Starlight Express recording is a one-disc highlights album, designed to be complementary to the original and provide the updated numbers rather than try to represent the whole production.

The Apollo Victoria Theatre

L Ap Vic Front 93

The Apollo Victoria Theatre is a West End theatre, located on Wilton Road near Victoria station in the City of Westminster. Opened in 1930 as a cinema and variety theatre, the Apollo Victoria became a venue for musical theatre, beginning with The Sound of Music in 1981, and including Starlight Express, from 1984 to 2002. The theatre is now the home of the musical Wicked. The theatre is an architectural gem in the Art Deco style, with an under-water theme described as "a Mermaid's dream of Heaven".

Cast

1984 Original Cast

Rusty Ray Shell Pearl Stephanie Lawrence
Poppa Lon Satton Dinah Frances Ruffelle
Greaseball Jeff Shankley Ashley Chrissy Wickham
Electra Jeffrey Daniel Buffy Nancy Wood
Rocky 1 / Gang Danny John Jules Krupp / Gang Eddie Kemp
Rocky 2 / Gang Attlee Baptiste Wrench Carole Amphlett
Rocky 3 / Gang Richard Bodkin Purse / Gang Kofi Missah
Flat-top / Gook Paul Reeves Joule / 2nd Class Sleeper Debbie Wake
Dustin / Gang Gary Love Volta / 3rd Class Sleeper Voyd
C.B. Michael Staniforth Belle P. P. Arnold
Bobo / Lube Tom Jobe Cover Poppa Abraham Osuagwu
Espresso Ruel George Campbell Cover Belle Samantha Foxx
Weltschaft / Tank Mark Davis Swing Charlotte Avery
Turnov / Gang Bobby Collins Swing Sebastian Craig
Hashamoto / Gang Drue Williams Swing Michael Seraphim
City of Milton Keynes Raymond Hatfield Swing Eleanor Bertram
Swing Uduak Ephraim Swing Pollyanna Buckingham

Subsequent Casts 1985 - 2002

Further Cast Information

Galleries

Photos of the production are divided by year.

1984 Gallery Misc Gallery
1985 - 1992 Gallery 1992 Gallery
1994 Gallery 1995 Gallery
1996 Gallery 1997 Gallery
1998 Gallery 1999 Gallery
2000 Gallery 2001 Gallery

News

Articles and News

  • 1985 Reassurance for Investors in the £2 million musical Starlight Express who have complained of slow returns - Andrew Lloyd Webber predicts that now the heavy initial investment has been recouped profits will soar with a return of 40% in the next 12 months. 'We hope it will run for at least another three years and although it won't make as much as Cats it will be very profitable ' says Andrew.

Press Pack statistics (2001)

  • 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.


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