The woman sitting behind me at Starlight Express was clearly a long time fan. She sang most of the musical word for word and cheered “Go Rusty” just before the crucial moments. Some may have found it irritating, but to me, it underlined the sentimentality and nostalgia people feel for this almost 30-year-old musical which has run worldwide since it started out in London’s West End in 1984.
That fan’s enthusiasm was infectious, but it’s hard not to get swept along by this childish tale of toy trains coming to life, a do or die race and, of course, a love story. While some may say it’s dated, and the roller skates are certainly a throwback to the 80s, it’s the simple storyline that endures, as have many of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals. And in the end, it’s about putting our busy lives to one side to slip into a fantasy and simply be entertained.
The adult jokes will go over the kids’ heads, but they’ll enjoy the spectacle just as much as we do: the dazzling costumes (love Electra’s makeup!), the impressive lighting (memorably during Rusty’s solo) and the 3D special effects (but I won’t let the cat out of the bag).
The singing and dialogue fell flat on only a couple of occasions, but was resurrected by Poppa’s solo ode to steam and Rusty’s heartfelt Starlight Express solo. Singing, skating, dancing and not falling over takes some skill that makes these performers special though. This along with Rusty and Pearl’s duet was a highlight, as was the, Light At The End of The Tunnel, which brought all 28 performers on stage in one energetic and extravagant finale.
Starlight Express plays until Sunday, 24 November at Marina Bay Sands Theatre. See it Tuesday to Friday at 7.30pm, with an additional 2pm show on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets from sistic.com.