CB (Red Caboose) is the brake van from the musical Starlight Express. He's a crowd favourite but was removed from the New London and On Ice productions. He is one of the most intriguing and unpredictable characters in the show. Since he is the Caboose, it's his function to help the other trains with their work. Later on, we see another side of him when decides to sabotage Rusty in the race. In the end, when he is racing with Electra, he gets fought over by Electra and Greaseball, and ends up crashing them all.
CB was (in London) and is (in Bochum) one of the more prominent characters. He was the main antagonist and linchpin of the plot, manipulating champion contenders Greaseball and Electra.
CB's personality is one of the most complex in the show. Initially he seems bright, sweet and helpful; we don't see a darker side to him until the first race, but immediately that is contrasted to his sweetness towards Dinah in "There's Me". It's only in the second act that we see CB completely off the rails.
Many people theorise that Caboose is in love with Dinah, and that is why he wants to crash Greaseball (who Dinah loves) and Electra allows him access to the race. This is also often thought to be his motive behind singing "There's Me". Alternatively, he is a first class manipulator and preying on Dinah's weakness. Perhaps he genuinely feels sorry for her and is sincerely offering friendship. There is also the theory that he is simply insane with no real logic behind his motives or actions.
It's clear that he's not like the other freight trucks. His various costumes (London, Broadway, Bochum, Mexican, etc) show that he used to be a boxcar, but now he is a caboose, which means he carries humans instead of goods. Cabooses would have sleeping quarters, a kitchen, and a conductor's office, and older models could whistle and were a key element in older braking methods.
The puns flow thick and fast with CB, particularly with the homonyms of "Brake" and "Break". Is CB intending to slow down his race partner, or damage him? The audience can't tell. In the original production he was named C.B., a reference to CB radios (this is also one of Richard Stilgoe's many beloved puns, as it is also an abbreviation of 'Caboose'). There is a scene in the Original London production, where Greaseball enters and says, 'Hi C.B.' and C.B. answers 'Hi G.B.', supporting the abbreviation train of thought. Several examples of CB radio code pepper his lines, including 'ten-seven', which means a dead body (said when he's mocking Rusty after holding him back in the Uphill Final), and 'smokey bear', which refers to a sheriff.
From Broadway onwards, however, he dropped all references to CB radios and was known only as 'The Red Caboose'. In Expreso Astral, the 1997 Mexican production, Red Caboose was literally translated to 'Cabus Rojo'. He was not in "Starlight Express on Ice" which was based on the later London production.
We first meet CB the Red Caboose in Freight, where he's pulling up the back of the freight train. He's unlike the other Freight, he's smaller, he doesn't carry goods, he's just there to help. Sometimes he can be seen smiling and waving to his friend Dinah. He keeps well back when the Engine of the Future, Electra appears, and CB can't resist his magnetism any more than anyone else can. Originally, CB raced with Hashamoto in the first race, against Greaseball and Dinah, and Espresso and Buffy. But CB helps Greaseball take the lead, by slowing down the Bullet Train at the crucial moment.
After Greaseball and Dinah have confirmed their place in the final, Dinah twigs that the race was not completely honestly won. She complains, and Greaseball pushes her away, she falls, crying. CB catches up with them, and as Greaseball tells him Dinah is on her own, CB sings "There's Me" to comfort her. She's not alone, she has a friend. What his motivation is is unclear - is he in love with her, when she has eyes for no-one but Greaseball? Is he genuinely wanting to comfort his friend? Is he in fact playing a manipulative game, and working on controlling Greaseball's girlfriend?
After the big drama of Poppa winning a spot in the final and nominating Rusty to take his place, CB joins the argument on Rusty's side, volunteering to race with him. But in an aside to Greaseball he says "Trust me, I'll sort it out! (Tell ya later what it's all about!)" Soon after we catch up with CB chatting on his radio, as Greaseball finds him. Greaseball asks who he's talking to, and doesn't like that it's Electra. He threatens CB, "Just remember whose side you're on!". After Greaseball and his gang leave, Electra turns up to talk to CB. CB tells him his plan to wipe out Rusty, and reveals his sordid past in "Wide Smile, High Style"
The Uphill Final sets off, with all three engines - Rusty, Electra, and Greaseball - all sure that CB is working for themselves. Rusty quickly learns the truth, as CB throws on the brakes, and Rusty is slowed down to the point that he misses the crucial stage of the race where the bridge ferries the racers up to the top level. Rusty's disqualified. But the race ends in a dead heat, so Greaseball and Electra will have to repeat the head-to-head final.
Rusty complains that CB cheated, but nobody listens to him. But Pearl realises that Rusty was cheated, and when she goes to complain she's bullied into staying. CB gloats, teasing the disheartened steam engine, "Call yourself an engine? You're no Engine!" as he leaves, finding the damage wrought hilarious.
Later, as the engines prepare for the re-run of the Final, Dinah has reached the end of her patience with Electra, and disconnects him. In a panic, Electra calls for his ally, CB, to race with him instead. As they assemble for the re-run, Rusty turns up with Dustin and pushes into the race. The race is violent and dirty, with Electra shooting lightning and Pearl getting derailed. Electra and Greaseball fight over CB, and he causes an enormous crash right before the finish line, resulting in Rusty and Dustin to win the race. Humiliated by losing, Electra storms out, but in even worse shape is the mangled wreckage of Greaseball and CB, who've gone through "One Rock'n'Roll Too Many" CB has learned the lesson from his devious behaviour.
For the Broadway and later productions, CB becomes Caboose, and several plot points are smoothed out from the original version, In Heat 1, Caboose usually races with Turnov, prompting mid-80s political discussion of the treacherous RED Caboose racing with the Russian engine. "There's Me" becomes a duet with Dinah taking a verse. His introduction for "Wide Smile, High Style" becomes snappier and clearer, as he tells Greaseball he'll wipe out Rusty, and Electra that he'll wipe out Greaseball. He also is clearly less sane,
- Every hero that you trust, in the end they all go bust!
- Robin Hood kept all the money, Piglet poisoned Pooh-bear's honey!
- E.T. had no flying permit, Donald Duck has eaten Kermit!
- Bambi set the woods alight! And the Red Caboose is not Snow White!'
The Uphill Final staging was also changed, rather than the racers needing to be on the bridge before it moved and the race ending in a dead heat, instead the race devolves into a punch-up, and when Rusty and Caboose pull out into the lead, Greaseball tells Caboose to Brake/Break him. Caboose sends Rusty crashing down the set, to land, injured and unable to continue, and Control cancels the race.
Another change was in cutting Electra's tantrum song "No Comeback", which added Electra to the crash at the end of the Race, making "One Rock'n'Roll Too Many" into a trio rather than a duet.
The London production updated around 1988 to bring the show in line with some elements of the Broadway production, including the re-written elements of Caboose's role, and cutting "No Comeback". In late 1992, "The New Starlight Express" cut the role of CB as well as Belle. The 1997 "Starlight Express On Ice" production modelled itself on this production, and ran without CB.
The role of Caboose was significantly cut down for the 2003 US Tour, and subsequent UK Tour. The entire scene after Heat 1 was cut, including his solo "There's Me", and his other solo "Wide Smile, High Style" was reduced to simply the dialogue. This meant that the role was small enough to be considered ensemble not a featured role, and lowered the actor's pay grade appropriately.
In 2008, the German production followed the example of the UK Tour, and cut down his role significantly. However they did later partially reverse the decision, and re-instated a shortened version of "Wide Smile", where Caboose initially talks to Greaseball and Gang, telling them of his plan to wipe out Rusty. Greaseball threatens him and leaves. Caboose begins to soliloquise, but shortly after, Electra and his Components arrive and dance with him without knowing his plans. The crucial bars where Electra learns of Caboose's plans, which explain his presence, have been cut.
In 2018, the show was extensively re-written in honour of the production's 30th birthday. This included a dramatic overhaul for Caboose: an entirely new costume and a new motivation in life - he is now obsessed with money. His cheating, dirty deeds are all bought and sold. His new costume reflects this "Mobster" attitude with a trilby hat, pinstriped red on navy suit, and a big "Bling" brake wheel on a chain around his neck. Musically, all traces of the "There's Me" melody have been cut and replaced by the "Wide Smile" melody, for example his introduction in "Freight" is now sung to the "Wide Smile, high style, that's me" tune. This has a considerable impact on the character, as he is no longer perceived as "Nice" - he's worrying, disturbed, throughout the show. There is no longer two sides to his character, other characters such as Greaseball and Electra are not required to like him, merely to buy his help to throw the race in their favour.
|1984 - 1986||Michael Staniforth|
|1986 - 1987||Paul Reeves|
|1987 - 1988||Robin Wright|
|1988 - 1989||Peter Rees|
|1989 - 1990||Eddie Kemp|
|1990 - 1992||William Adams|
|1992 - 2002||(cut)|
|1987 - 1988||Barry K. Bernal|
|1988 - 1989||Todd Lester|
Japan / Australia Tours
|1988 - 1989||Hans Johansson|
|1989 - 1990||Roderick Cloud / Kapa Kitchen|
|1990 - 1991||T. Robert Pigott|
|1991 - 1992||Kapa Kitchen|
|1992 - 1994||Thierry Gondet|
|1994 - 1996||Steven M Schultz|
|1996 - 1999||Kapa Kitchen|
|1999 - 2000||Murray Golding|
|2000 - 2001||Rob Fowler|
|2001 - 2002||Oliver Rhoe Thornton|
|2002 - 2004||Anthony Kirwan|
|2004 - 2006||Kapa Kitchen|
|2006 - 2007||Craig Perry|
|2007 - 2008||Nivaldo Allvez|
|2008 - 2010||Ben Draper|
|2010 - 2011||Marcel Brauneis|
|2011 - 2013||Gordon Gesatzki|
|2013 - 2016||Andrew Prosser|
|2016 - 2019||Daniel Ellison|
US Tour 1989 - 1991
|1989 - 1991||Todd Lester|
Las Vegas 1993 - 1997
|1993 - 1994||T. Robert Pigott|
|1994 - 1995||Chris Castillo|
|1995 - 1996||?|
|1996 - 1997||Ken Romero|
US Tour 2003 - 2004
|2003 - 2004||Jeremy Kocal|
UK Tours 2004 - 2008
|2004 - 2005||Grant Murphy|
|2006 - 2007||Stuart Armfield|
|2007 - 2008||Cameron Neilson|
NZ Tour 2009
UK Tour 2012-2013
|2012 - 2013||Stuart Armfield|
|Asia 2013||Austin Garrett|
The logos featured on Caboose's costume are rail organizations no longer operating (known as "fallen flags" in the railroad community). Companies include Pennsylvania Railroad, Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Chessie System, Northern Pacific Railway, Great Northern Railway, Central Railroad of New Jersey, Penn Central Transportation Company, and Canadian Pacific Railway, which is the only one still in use.
On April 1st 2015 Starlight Express Bochum announced via twitter, that Caboose's costume would be changed from red to green, to match his character better - this was very quickly found out to be an April Fools' prank.
In the original version of "C.B."/"Wide Smile, High Style", C.B. mentions, "State police, they don't suspect I got Old 97 wrecked." This is a reference to the Wreck of Old 97. In 1903 an American mail train had been speeding along and could not brake in time and crashed. However, mail trains were a type of passenger service and would not have had a caboose.