Review: Starlight Express proves it’s still got steam

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 October, 2013, 3:43pm
UPDATED : Monday, 21 October, 2013, 3:43pm

Starlight Express
Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and David Atkins Enterprises
Lyric Theatre, HK Academy for Performing Arts
Until November 3

Forget about 3-D. When the technology was introduced to Andrew Lloyd Weber's Starlight Express in 2005/2006, it was a cool gimmick that helped revive interest in a musical that had already been running across the globe for more than 20 years.

Today, a time when stunning 3-D special effects are on offer in almost every major Hollywood blockbuster, the race sequences using the technology look very dated. But that is not to say the latest version of Starlight Express isn’t worth a look.

If anything, this show reminds us what makes musicals fun and good: it’s the memorable score coupled with engaging storytelling through good acting, singing and dancing. Throw in some nice costumes and an imaginative set and you have a winner. This touring production (last year/this year) has it all.

The story itself is pretty simple. Inspired by W. Awdry’s children’s book series Thomas the Tank Engine, Starlight Express is a heart-warming tale of how Rusty, an old steam train, beats slicker models in a big race while winning the heart of a beautiful locomotive, Pearl, along the way.

All the performers on stage are on roller skates. The Lyric Theatre is a little too small for them to pull any major daredevil stunts, but Arlene Philips’ choreography, especially for Electra the futuristic engine, was fun enough to keep everyone entertained.

Kristoffer Harding leads the cast as Rusty and his portrayal of the underdog is inspirational but not exaggerated. His rendition of Make Up My Heart as well as the theme tune Starlight Sequence was touching.

Julian Cannonier’s scene-stealing Poppa, an ailing old steam engine, held court with his deep and creamy vocals, while Mykal Rand is playfully camp as the diva-ish Electra.

This is a truly delightful ensemble piece and supporting roles such as the three Hip Hoppers – Andy Barke, Robert Nurse and Lauren Hearnden-Mayer – helped liven up the action whenever they came on stage. Kelsey Cobban, who played the jilted engine Duvay, gave a fun interpretation of U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D, a parody of Tammy Wynette’s 1968 country smash hit D-I-V-O-R-C-E.


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