02 June 2024

The Story Behind Starlight Express

Since it premiered in the West End back in 1984, Starlight Express has been enjoyed by audiences across the globe. With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Richard Stilgoe, Starlight Express is one of the most unique productions to have hit the big stage. Indeed, the entire cast performs on roller skates! But what’s the story behind this iconic show? Let’s find out.

The Origins of Starlight Express

Andrew Lloyd Webber began with the idea of making a TV series based on Reverend W Awdry’s popular Thomas the Tank Engine books. While an episode was commissioned, it didn’t gain speed. LLoyd Webber’s fascination with trains continued. He even wrote a somewhat bizarre version of Cinderella which saw the main characters turned into trains.

Lloyd Webber’s locomotive vision finally became a reality when he and Richard Stilgoe presented two songs from a potential new show, Starlight Express, to the Sydmonton Festival and director Trever Nunn grew interested. On the agreement that more ‘spectacle and theatre magic’ would be added, the show was produced.

Starlight Express Plot 

When a magical toy set comes to life in a child’s dream, a dramatic, exciting and somewhat unexpected race begins. Despite being a young steam engine with old-fashioned technology, Rusty longs to become the ‘fastest engine in the world.’ He also wants to impress Pearl, a first-class observation car. While initially outpaced and dismissed by competitors such as Electra, a sleek and powerful electric engine and Greaseball, a macho diesel locomotive, Rusty eventually discovers his true potential, flying the flag high for steam power.

Central to the story is the Starlight Express, a mythical train that represents ultimate speed and power. Rusty turns to this locomotive for inspiration and strength during his darkest moments, shining bright amid arguments, chaos and tough competition. 

Book your tickets to Starlight Express live on stage to see if Rusty races to first place and wins over Pearl’s heart. 

Starlight Express Themes 

The Starlight Express musical might be fantasy but it touches on real human emotions, conveying themes of love, ambition and self-realisation. Touching moments are brought to life with memorable and spellbinding songs, with music styles ranging from rock and pop to blues and gospel. Listen out for classics including AC/DC, Make Up My Heart, Light at the End of the Tunnel and, of course, Starlight Express. Elaborately choreographed skating sequences are also a huge part of the production, offering a visually captivating experience. 

The World’s First Truly Immersive Musical

Described by Andrew Lloyd Webber as ‘the world’s first truly immersive musical’ Starlight Express looks set to be a large-scale spectacle, plunging the audience into the heart of the action. Lloyd Webber has also teased a ‘big new plot twist’ showing why ‘steam power is the future of the railway’ - so watch this space

Starlight Express opens in summer 2024 at the specially designed Starlight Auditorium at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre - a cavernous venue that’s perfect for such a big production. It’s a fantastic remake of an already popular show, and will be directed by Luke Sheppard, with set designs by Tim Hatley, video from Andrzej Goulding and Costumes from Gabriella Slad. Book your tickets with KX Tickets to join the fun.