Theatre Review: Starlight Express - New Wimbledon Theatre ✭✭✭

Starlight Express
New Wimbledon Theatre

Monday 14th May: New Wimbledon Theatre is co-producing this new UK tour of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Starlight Express in association with Bill Kenwright. Does this production hit the tracks running? Well... yes. If you you have never seen Starlight Express before, the plot features around a group of toy railway trains, portrayed by actors on roller-skates, who come to life inside the mind of a small child. The characters race to become the 'fastest engine in the world', and in the end, the underdog, Rusty (Kristopher Harding), triumphs, winning the race and the heart of  observation car, Pearl (Amanda Coutts).

As soon as you enter the auditorium, the preset on stage are the lighting towers full of moving lights, with an LED video screen behind split into three sections, showing a visual of a train on a track in what seems to be from an 80's Sinclair Spectrum game... quirky and odd but works. The houselights go down, and the band start to play, and this is the entrance of the international trains, a very late one from the British 'Prince Of Wales' train playing on the humour of our rail system.

Previous tour production shot
Photo by Jens Hauer
The music has an 80's feel from the band, with a lot of synthesised keyboards used in the arrangements, the more up-tempo numbers sounding like an old school disco. A Whole Lotta Locomotion on the other hand is a complete contrast, bringing the score up to date and looking like Girl's Aloud on roller skates.

Choreography from Arlene Phillips is spot on, incorporating the use of two ramps for skaters to back flip, fast attacking skating, body jumps etc. A huge visual feast for the eyes. Add this to the excellent lighting design by Nick Richings and it does look really good.

As far as performances go, the cast are in great shape, and where credit is due, flawless. Ruthie Stephens as Dinah did a magnificent job throughout, especially in the song U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D giving it a country feel. Kristopher Harding's Rusty was also very good, lovely vocals at the end of act one in Starlight Express, the lighting adding to the feel of the song. Electra played by Mykal Rand often had some funny moments, and Amanda Coutts as Pearl was also fantastic, again lovely vocals.

There are a couple of times in the show when we are presented with a 3D movie for the actual races. You are given 3D glasses and are told when to put them on. I've never been a huge fan of film being shown in theatre productions, but when done well they work wonders, and this is good fun to watch.

Starlight Express looks good, sounds good, great choreography, fantastic vocals, but it still feels dated with an average score, and is lacking a certain something and I can't quite put my finger on it. ✭✭✭

Thursday 10 – Saturday 19 May
New Wimbledon Theatre

Tuesday 29 May – Saturday 16 June
Alhambra Theatre, Bradford 

Tuesday 19 – Saturday 30 June
The Lowry, Salford Quays 

Tuesday 3 – Saturday 14 July
Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh 

Tuesday 17 – Saturday 28 July
Liverpool Empire Theatre 

Tuesday 31 July – Saturday 18 August
BIC Windsor Hall, Bournemouth 

Tuesday 21 August – Saturday 1 September
Concert Hall, Nottingham 

Tuesday 4 – Saturday 15 September
Southend Theatres 

Monday 17 – Saturday 29 September
Venue Cymru, Llandudno 

Tuesday 2 – Saturday 13 October
His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen 

Tuesday 16 – Saturday 27 October
Hull New Theatre 

Tuesday 30 October – Saturday 10 November
Winter Gardens, Blackpool 

Tuesday 13 – Saturday 24 November
Empire Theatre, Sunderland 

Tuesday 27 November – Saturday 8 December
Mayflower Theatre, Southampton 

Tuesday 11 – Saturday 29 December
New Theatre, Oxford 

Tuesday 29 January – Saturday 9 February 2013 Box Office: 028 7126 4455
Millennium Forum, Londonderry