Andrew Lloyd Webber's iconic musical, Starlight Express, chugs into its new London station at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre. This high-octane spectacle transports audiences to a fantastical realm where anthropomorphic trains, each bursting with personality, vie for the coveted title of "Fastest Engine in the Land." Rusty (Jeevan Braich), a kind-hearted but insecure steam engine, yearns to prove himself worthy of winning the competition and capturing the heart of the beautiful observation carriage, Pearl (Kayna Montecillo). However, the arrogant and ruthless Greaseball (Al Knott) stands in his way, determined to win at any cost.

While the narrative serves primarily as a framework for the show's dazzling roller-skating sequences, it weaves in themes of competition, camaraderie, and self-belief. The story unfolds in a light-hearted manner, with the various train types – steam, electric, and diesel – locked in a playful rivalry. This light-heartedness keeps the energy high throughout, but some audience members might crave a deeper emotional connection with the characters.


However, where Starlight Express might lack in emotional depth, it compensates tenfold with sheer technical brilliance. Director Luke Sheppard orchestrates a magnificent spectacle, bringing together a team of talented creatives who breathe life into this fantastical world. The cast, defying gravity on roller skates, delivers stellar performances. Jeevan Braich's portrayal of Rusty is both endearing and vocally impressive. He captures the character's vulnerability and determination with nuance, making the audience root for the underdog. Kayna Montecillo embodies Pearl with captivating grace, her voice soaring through the high-energy score.

The choreography by Ashley Nottingham is a marvel to behold. The performers weave intricate formations and engage in high-speed chases across the custom-built stage, designed by Tim Hatley to resemble a dynamic racetrack. The fluidity of their movements, seamlessly integrated with the roller skates, is a testament to their athleticism and the meticulous training they must have undergone.



Gabriella Slade's costume design is a visual treat. Each train is adorned in vibrant outfits that not only reflect their personalities but also cleverly echo their engine types. From Rusty's classic steam engine aesthetic to Greaseball's sleek, aerodynamic design, the costumes add another layer of detail and characterization to the production. Howard Hudson's lighting design bathes the stage in a dynamic array of colors, further amplifying the visual spectacle.

The music, of course, is a cornerstone of the Starlight Express experience. Andrew Lloyd Webber's iconic score features most of the beloved Starlight Express tracks, transporting audiences back to their childhoods.

Starlight Express is a show that thrives on its technical prowess. The cast's vocal talent and athleticism are undeniable, and the creative team's work is nothing short of remarkable. The set design, choreography, costumes, and lighting all come together to create a visually stunning and immersive experience. However, for some audience members, the show's focus on spectacle might overshadow the emotional core. The narrative, largely predictable, could benefit from deeper character development and moments of vulnerability to truly resonate with the audience.

Ultimately, Starlight Express is a dazzling spectacle that is sure to entertain audiences of all ages. Those seeking a nostalgic trip down memory lane with a splash of high-octane roller-skating action will find much to enjoy. However, for those seeking a more emotionally resonant theatrical experience, the show might leave them wanting a little more heart to complement the impressive technical feats.


It runs until 16 February 2025. Tickets: here.


Photos: Pamela Raith