It took longer to reach Blackpool than the direct train line from London but now it has finally arrived it’s more welcome than Richard Branson’s reprieve on the West Coast line.
No one can accuse Andrew Lloyd Webber of ever going for the obvious – a musical about cats, one about Eva Peron and even giving Jesus a shot of rock and roll, but eyebrows were raised higher than a first class ticket to anywhere when Starlight Express first took to the stage almost 30 years ago.
All right, we’ve had talking trains since Thomas the Tank Engine but this lot are on roller skates and frequently in 3D (introduced nine years) and they mean business.
On the one hand it’s very Webber – tunes you feel you’ve heard before and then almost immediately hear again with a couple of showstoppers along the way. On the other hand it’s far more than that – he tackles every music genre going, from blues to country, hip hop to gospel – and all with the added extra of Richard Stilgoe’s witty and clever lyrics. Then there’s the choreography of Arlene Phillips, brought back to helm this year’s production and adding a new zip and vigour to the proceedings.
It’s unfair to spot stars in an ensemble show but Amanda Coutts is a cracking Pearl (the first class carriage!) and Kristofer Harding’s Rusty rings the right sympathy bell.
It’s so easy to forget everyone is on roller skates and that there’s a band hidden somewhere in the wings but it’s not easy to forget the welcome arrival of a first class musical to this venue.
2-for-1 on tickets to Starlight Express - don’t miss The Gazette on Saturday.