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.
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 story starts with a small child (Control) playing with his toy trains. His mother tells him to go to bed, and he falls asleep still thinking about the trains. The model trains, that had been running around the set as the audience entered, seem to turn into human-size trains as the toys come to life during the Overture. The music builds and swells, until something magical is surely about to happen - when the heavy Rock of Rolling Stock pierces the atmosphere. Greaseball and his Gang sing an anthem about the power of being an Engine. Then the little steam shunter, Rusty, comes by on his errands. Greaseball and his gang bully him, teasing him about his dreams of racing. Rusty is angry at them, and as he fetches the Coaches, he sings about his plans to show them all wrong when he wins the race in Call Me Rusty (If You Dare). The coaches are all fond of Rusty, but fear for his welfare if he tries to take on the big boys. They try to talk him out of it with Rusty You Can't Be Serious. Pearl, the Observation coach, had tentatively agreed to race with him, but she's not committed yet. She and the other coaches sing A Lotta Locomotion, introducing themselves and what they look for in a partner.
As if to prove the coaches' point, Greaseball returns, bringing two sleeper carriages with him. He sings another big rock'n'roll number, Pumping Iron, surrounded by adoring girls, while Rusty is sent to fetch the Freight train - gradually Control is assembling all the players for the Races. Rusty returns with the Freight, who introduce themselves and sing of how Freight is Great. The Freight train is rather competitive with the Coaches, each feel their speciality is superior.
Control calls the start of the race night proceedings, with the Entry of the National Engines. Rusty puts himself forward, coming from "The sidings". As Control is calling "Any more Entries? Closing Entries!" there is a massive power drain, and then from the darkness, lasers pierce through the smoke. The Components emerge and, speaking in computer code, announce the arrival of Electra. Electra himself appears from above, on the moving bridge, and introduces himself in AC/DC, bedazzling and hypnotising all the residents of the train line. With all the competitors present, Control calls for each engine in turn to come forward and choose their race partner. Greaseball, as the reigning champion, calls Dinah, and one by one we are introduced by name to all the racers. Rusty is left til last, and the beautiful Pearl has been unable to decide on a partner either. Rusty asks her to race with him, but she explains she's waiting for her dream train in He Whistled At Me. Although her dream train is a Steamer, Rusty's whistle isn't *quite* right, so she keeps looking. Purse turns up, and invites Pearl to race with his master, Electra. Pearl is still unsure, but agrees, leaving Rusty alone and heart-broken.
Control calls the First Race, reigning champion Greaseball with Dinah, Espresso with Buffy, and Hashamoto with CB. The race is a dirty fight, and Greaseball and Dinah win. Dinah complains about how Greaseball cheated, and he dumps her. CB arrives to congratulate the pair and reveals that he and Greaseball were working together to throw the race, but seeing tragic Dinah, he stays behind to comfort her, singing There's Me.
Over in the Freight yard, Poppa sings The Blues. Rusty finds him and explains that, with Pearl having chosen Electra over him, Rusty can no longer race as he doesn't have a partner. Poppa has a solution, and introduces Belle the Sleeping Car. Rusty and Belle enter Race Two, but against Electra and Pearl, and Weltschaft and Joule, they lose. Now even more despondent, Rusty returns to Poppa, who decides to race himself. Just as Rusty points out that there isn't a space in the race, Control announces the British Train has withdrawn, and calls for any last-minute entries. Poppa takes this as a sign from the Starlight Express, and enters the race with Dustin the Big Hopper.
The Third Race features Bobo and Ashley, Turnov and Wrench, and now Poppa and Dustin. The race is close, but with the weight of the big hopper behind him, Poppa finds a last moment turn of speed and wins the race. However the old steamer has over-exerted himself, and collapses past the finish line. The Freight crowd round to see if he's ok, and Poppa nominates Rusty to take his place in the final. But then the other engines, Greaseball and the gang, Electra, Pearl and the Components, all come by and taunt him for even considering it. In a moment of defiance, Rusty agrees to be Poppa's replacement and race in the final. But, left on his own, Rusty wonders if he has the ability to go ahead, and asks for guidance from the Starlight Express.
Act 2 opens with a massive argument in The Rap, whether to accept Rusty as Poppa's replacement, despite his already having been disqualified in losing his heat. Bobo argues that, since he came second to Poppa, he should have the opportunity to race. Pearl persuades Electra that if Rusty races, Electra can prove he's the best. CB volunteers to race with Rusty, which persuades Greaseball to OK it. Dinah tries to speak up, but nobody wants to listen to her, and the engines arrange that she will race with Electra despite her saying she doesn't want to. Greaseball formally invites Pearl to take a ride in Pearl Twirl, and Pearl doesn't get why Dinah is so upset, after all "It's only fun!" But to heart-broken Dinah, it's the worst thing ever, as she explains to Ashley, Buffy and Belle that she's been UNCOUPLED. The older, wiser coaches persuade her to pick herself up and fight back in Girls Rolling Stock.
CB is alone, talking on his radio to Electra, when Greaseball and the Gang find him and threaten him to "Remember whose side you're on". CB assures him he's on his. Shortly after, Electra and Components catch up with CB, who explains to Electra he's going to wipe out Rusty, and his history of causing train wrecks in Wide Smile, High Style. Control then calls the Championship Race - running on the uphill course. Greaseball races with Pearl, Electra with Dinah, and Rusty with CB. With the underhandedness we've come to expect from CB, he betrays Rusty, slowing him at a crucial moment, and the race ends in a dead heat between Greaseball and Electra. Rusty complains I Was Robbed, but Greaseball ignores him. Pearl, however, finally realises that the race was rigged against Rusty, and Greaseball threatens her if she complains to the Marshalls. CB mocks Rusty, telling him that the re-run is just between Greaseball and Electra, and Rusty, only a shunter, is "no engine", laughing hysterically as he leaves. Rusty is then visited by the Rockies, who bring their own special form of support in Right Place, Right Time. They encourage him to just leave it, that you can't win against loaded odds.
Alone, Rusty hits rock bottom, and calls to The Starlight Express. He feels a magical presence, and a voice answers him. The Starlight Express tells him to believe in himself and he can achieve anything in a medley of melodies of Rusty's earlier questioning, and now finding answers in the Starlight Sequence. The first person Rusty sees after is Dustin, who was asleep but dreamed of the Starlight as well. Dustin agrees to go with Rusty. Meanwhile, Dinah has lost all patience with Electra failing to Whistle at her, and she disconnects him. With moments before the re-run of the final race, Electra calls on CB to be his race partner.
The re-run of the championship final race is run on the downhill course. Greaseball and Pearl, Electra and CB are lining up for the start of the race, when Rusty and Dustin turn up and join them at the last second. The race is fast and dirty, as Greaseball and Electra fight. Electra throws lightning bolts at Greaseball, but misses and hits Pearl by accident. Injured, Greaseball just disconnects her at speed, and she hurtles towards the edge. But Rusty diverts and catches her just in time, putting her safety above his position in the race. Now with only CB between Greaseball and Electra, and both needing him as a partner to cross the finish line, the fighting gets more reckless. In the final stretch, however, Rusty catches up and pulls into the lead, and as Greaseball and CB crash in the tunnel, Rusty wins the race! Rather than wait for congratulations, he immediately leaves to find Pearl.
Humiliated, Electra has lost the race. He swears to leave and never return, in No Comeback. In the wake of his furious exit, the wrecked Greaseball and CB stumble out from the tunnel, and sing One Rock'n'Roll Too Many, describing how they pushed too hard and now they're paying for it. Poppa arrives, demanding to know where Rusty's gone. Nobody knows, except Dustin heard him say he was looking for Pearl. Greaseball and CB are dragged to their wheels to take them to where Pearl was last seen.
Pearl is alone, and finally realises that the engine of her dreams, the Steamer who whistled at her, was there all the time, and that Rusty is the one - Only He (has the power to move me). Rusty finds her, and Pearl tells him she's found her dream train. He tells her he found the Starlight Express, and now has the confidence to tell her that she's the only girl for him, and she realises he won the race. They sing a duet reprise of Pearl's big number, Only You. Poppa and all the others catch up with the lovers, and at that moment Control decides to cancel the winner's Lap of Honour. Buffy and Ashley reflect on how everything's worked out and has a happy ending, and Dinah catches up with the wrecked Greaseball who apologises to her. Poppa and Belle remind us all, no matter how dark it may be, there's always a Light at the End of the Tunnel.
- Overture - Control
- Rolling Stock – Greaseball and the Gang
- Taunting Rusty – Rusty, Greaseball, Gang
- Call Me Rusty – Rusty, Pearl, Dinah, Buffy and Ashley
- Rusty, You Can't Be Serious – Rusty, Pearl, Dinah, Buffy and Ashley
- A Lotta Locomotion – Dinah, Ashley, Buffy and Pearl
- Pumping Iron – Greaseball, Pearl, Ashley, Dinah, Buffy, 2nd and 3rd class Sleepers
- Freight – Pearl, Ashley, Dinah, Buffy, Rocky I, Rocky II, Rocky III, C.B., Dustin, Flat-Top
- Entry of the National Engines – National Engines and Marshals
- AC/DC – Electra, Krupp, Wrench, Purse, Joule, Volta and Company
- Coda of Freight - The Company
- Hitching and Switching – The Company
- He Whistled at Me – Pearl
- Pearl, You've Been Honoured – Purse, Pearl, Rusty
- Race: Heat One – Greaseball and Dinah, Espresso and Buffy, Hashamoto and C.B.
- That was Unfair – Dinah, Greaseball, C.B.
- There's Me – C.B.
- Poppa's Blues – Poppa, Rocky I, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rusty
- Belle the Sleeping Car – Belle
- Starlight Express Introduction – Poppa, Rusty, Belle
- Race: Heat Two – Electra and Pearl, Weltschaft and Joule, Rusty and Belle
- Boy, Boy, Boy – Poppa, Rusty, Belle, Trucks
- Race: Heat Three – Poppa and Dustin, Turnov and Wrench, Bobo and Ashley
- Laughing Stock – The Company
- Starlight Express – Rusty
- The Rap: Hey You! – The Company
- Pearl Twirl – Greaseball, Pearl, Dinah, Buffy, Ashley
- U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D. – Dinah
- Rolling Stock (Reprise) – Dinah, Belle, Ashley and Buffy
- C.B. – C.B, Electra, Krupp, Wrench, Purse, Joule, Volta
- Race: Uphill Final – Electra and Dinah, Rusty and C.B., Greaseball and Pearl
- I Was Robbed – C.B., Rusty, Greaseball, Electra, Pearl, Gang
- Right Place, Right Time – Rocky I, Rocky II, Rocky III
- I Am The Starlight – Rusty, Starlight Express, Dustin
- He Whistled at Me (Reprise) – Dinah, Electra, Krupp, Wrench, Purse, Volta, Joule, C.B.
- Race: Downhill Final – Rusty and Dustin, Electra and C.B, Greaseball and Pearl
- No Comeback – Electra, Krupp, Wrench, Purse, Joule, Volta
- One Rock & Roll Too Many – Greaseball, C.B.
- Only He (Has The Power to Move Me) – Pearl, (Rusty)
- Only You – Pearl, Rusty
- Light at the End of the Tunnel – The Company
- Light at the End of the Tunnel (Reprise)
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").
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.
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
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 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" 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 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.
"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.
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
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".
1984 Original Cast
Subsequent Casts 1985 - 2002
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|
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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