Get your skates on for musical delights

Starlight Express at Congress Theatre, Eastbourne
Starlight Express at Congress Theatre, Eastbourne

It’s not often, extremely rare in fact, that I am lost for words.

But when it comes to writing about whether the paying Joe Public will enjoy Starlight Express I am unusually undecided and have trouble putting pen to paper - or fingers to keyboard.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s an all singing, all dancing (on roller skates), colourful extravaganza show and while it’s not the best of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s offerings, it’s two hours of great entertainment for all ages.

But although it may well be one of the fast moving and longest-running shows in the West End it hasn’t got the memorable spine-tingling songs of the impressario’s more notable musicals such as Phantom of the Opera or Cats.

Apart from maybe the penultimate song, There’s a Light at the End of the Tunnel, but that was probably a reflection of the relief and my feelings that the show was almost coming to an end.

For a start, it takes a while – probably about 40 minutes – to get your head around the fact you are watching a stage show about a shed load of trains and carriages, all the while rooting for the good guy, which in this case is a rather shy, sad, lonely and unloved old steam engine called Rusty, and wanting to boo and hiss loudly at the obnoxious, flashy and smarmy diesel locomotive called, quite naturally, Greaseball.

The plot revolves around a group of toy railway trains, portrayed by actors on roller-skates, who come to life one night and race to become the fastest engine in the world. Naturally it is underdog, Rusty, who triumphs, winning the race and the heart of Pearl.

There’s some good performances and singing from those who play Electra the electric train (Mykal Rand), the aforementioned Greaseball (Jamie Capewell), Rusty (Kristofer Harding), Pearl (Amanda Coutts), the first class carriage who is the statutory love interest and Dinah, the sweet, Southern and lovable dining car, brilliantly played by Ruthie Stephens. But there’s some not so great performances too.

The Congress show fuses state of the art technology, dazzling costumes and music from a live band and without giving too much away the show is enhanced by the 3D visual effects, projected from a screen during the races and which every member of the audience can view through the special glasses given at the start of the show and needed at various points of the performance.

While it’s always fantastic to see London shows on the Congress stage, and this production does look at home there, I still in all honesty can’t make up my mind whether to give it the thumbs up or a seven out of 10.

It didn’t exactly dazzle me but as always don’t take my word for it. Instead, get your skates on and see for yourself. It’s on until Saturday, March 9.