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Starlight Express opens with an Overture, but not in the traditional sense of an orchestral medley of themes featured in the show. Rather, the opening number sets the context of the musical, that a child is playing with their trains at bed-time.

Context Edit

The Overture is the opening number in Starlight Express. It tells of a young child, known only as Control, playing with his trains at bedtime.

There are two contrasting versions of the opening number, one is a fantastical dream-scape of shadowy figures skating to an arrangement of the "Starlight Express" melody, the other leads directly to the child introducing the National Engines.

The first version, the full Overture, was used in the original London production, and often in Bochum. A crucial plot point is made, in that the child has fallen asleep, and the entire show is their dream. This version is reliant on the visual effect of the characters appearing from all over the set to accompany the music and to give the dreamlike mood.

The second, shorter version leads directly into Entry of the Nationals, with less mood setting, but creating a more immediate, fact-filled mood as we learn the names of each National Engine. This version was introduced for the Broadway production, and has subsequently been used on all tours.

1984 London ProductionEdit

As the audience has been coming in to the auditorium, toy train sets have been running back and forth in certain parts of the set. As the house lights dim, the lights and sounds of these models becomes more prominent. Control is playing with his toy trains. He announces that it is "Race Night" and that all trains go to racing mode. However, Control starts to nod off and he falls asleep still giving out his orders. Then he starts to dream. This is where the story of Starlight Express really begins. As Control falls asleep, the rattling of the toy trains stops and they turn off, to be replaced by shadowy figures emerging from the same spots we last saw toy trains.

Musically the overture shows us the child falling asleep, the sleepy repetition of "all Change" shows us losing consciousness, then we are introduced to the "Starlight Express" melody, initially played unaccompanied, then it repeats at different modulations, starting so quietly, building with more instrumentation, until a fully orchestrated repetition, which then leads towards something truly magical, about to happen - when we get run over by a Diesel train! The heavy rock beat of Rolling Stock interrupts the beautiful dream-scape conjured by the repeated melody, which we won't hear resolved until the Starlight Sequence.

LyricsEdit

Control: This is Control! This is Control!
All trains hear this! All trains hear this!
All trains to racing mode! All trains to racing mode!
Tonight is Race Night! Tonight is Race Night!
All change!
All change.
All change...
[Intro of Starlight Sequence plays.]

1987 Broadway ProductionEdit

This version has also been modified slightly for the Japanese/Australian Tour and, for some time, the Bochum production. This version does not include the orchestral Overture, and leads straight into "Entry of the National Engines"

Control is announcing that it is Race Night and gets excited over which train will win the prize of The Silver Dollar. (Productions subsequent to Broadway cut the Silver Dollar aspect.) However, his playtime gets cut short when his mother tells him to get to bed. Then she sings him "Starlight Express" as a lullaby. But when she leaves, Control sneaks back to his trains and he proceeds with "Entry of the National Engines".  In this version, Control does not fall asleep, which means the entire show is no longer a dream, but the child's play.

LyricsEdit

Control: This is Control! This is Control!
Tonight is the most important night in the history of the world! Take your seats for the great race! Who will win the Silver Dollar? Will it be diesel? Will it be electric? Or will it be steam? The tension is unbearable at the track here tonight!
Mother: Put those trains away!
Control: Oh Mom, just five more minutes?
Mother: Put them away and into bed!
Control: But...
Mother: No buts!
(sings) When the night is darkest,
open up your mind,
The dream begins, it's becoming clearer.
Listen to the distance,
listen and you'll find
The Midnight Train is getting nearer.
Control & Mother: Starlight Express, Starlight Express, Are you real? Yes or no?
Starlight Express, Starlight Express...

1988 - Present Bochum Production Edit

The German Production has used both the long and short versions of the overture, but both the original version and the current version use the long version with the skate-round, rather than having "Entry of the National Engines" at the very beginning of the show. Control's Mother tells Control to go to sleep, and sings the "Starlight Express" melody as a lullaby, at which point Control falls asleep and the dream-scape music begins.

1992 London UpdateEdit

This is similar to the Broadway Production, however Control's lines are slightly altered.

Control announces that it is Race Night and that it's the most important night in the history of the world. He then proceeds with a countdown which starts a race. This is interrupted by Control's mom, who tells him to get to bed. Then she sings him "Starlight Express" as a lullaby. But when she leaves, Control sneaks back to his trains and he proceeds with "Entry of the National Engines".

The 1993 "new" London cast recording contains a remixed version of the opening, combining commentary from the races with Control's opening lines.

The 2004 UK Tour uses a slight variation on this script.

LyricsEdit

Control: This is Control! This is Control!
Tonight is the most important night in the history of the world! Take your seats for the World Championship Railroad Race! Who will win? Will it be Diesel, will it be Electric, or will it be Steam? The tension is unbearable here at the track tonight!
Mother: Put those trains away!
Control: Oh mom, just five more minutes?
Mother: Put them away and into bed!
Control: But...
Mother: No buts! (sings) Starlight Express, Starlight Express, Are you real? Are you near? Starlight Express...
Control: This is control... This is control... (into Entry of the National Engines)

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