It’s a brave company that puts on a show with an entire cast on roller skates, but perhaps an insane one that also expects them to be able to sing and act. BMT Productions does it superbly. It would be very unfair to compare this production to the London or touring shows, but for an amateur society to perform it, with most of the cast never having skated before, is breath-taking.
Starlight Express is another fabulous collaboration of Lloyd Webber and Stilgoe (Cats, Phantom etc) and although many of the songs are unfamiliar, they are all enjoyable. The music is eclectic, ranging from rock through country & western to blues, with all manner of styles along the way. The story is told by a little boy at bedtime and quickly becomes a race between Rusty (a steam train), Electra (an electric train) and Greaseball (a diesel).
The cast is large and perhaps too many to name individually, but all do superbly well. Some have to be mentioned – James Dixon-Box as Greaseball is superb, oozing testosterone with every syllable. Becky Willis is a beautiful, vocally talented Pearl and Ian Metcalfe (standing in at the last minute) is a stunning Poppa. One of the many highlights of the show is his beautiful duet, ‘Starlight sequence’, with Rossano Sal’s Rusty. Martin Davies is certainly at home with the skates, but could exude more command as Electra – less arm movement and holding his head high would count for a lot. Perhaps he noticed that his big song, ‘AC/DC’, was pushed out of tune by over-enthusiastic use of the vocoder. The trio of girls, the trio of boys, Callum Arrowsmith (The Boy) are all brilliant…just too many to mention. Final honours go to Rossano, who really is beyond excellent; his gorgeous voice is lightened for the role and would give many a professional in the same part cause to think.
The company are so lucky to have the professional and ridiculously talented musician James Stead in charge, bringing out the best in everyone and what a sound they make! Bravo! Costumes are excellent and choreography too, although the latter is clearly restricted by the skates.
Yes, there were some trips along the way, it being a first night. However, it says a lot for the society that the audience, rather than revelling in the mishap, urged the stars back to their feet to continue the performance. The Life Centre is a fine venue for this ambitious show (although much of the diction of the cast is lost with the bouncing echoes around the auditorium – I found it very difficult to make out any words at all) and the audience enjoy the spectacle of the cast whizzing around them; it was a well-deserved standing ovation at the end. Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote it for his two children and said the objective of the musical was to attract young children to the theatre. I can only recommend that you bring your family to enjoy this lovely, joyous show – you won’t be disappointed.