Saturday, November 16, 2013

Starlight Express in Review - 13 November 2013

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A family oriented show for both young and old. Premiered in 1984, the original production of Starlight Express won tremendous commercial success by having its cast perform on roller skates throughout in a specially built theatre, with ramps that reach into the audience. This touring production uses 3D graphics in place of the ramps, which are used to perform train races. it also featured a few new songs not in the original cast recording, and was closely supervised personally by Andrew Lloyd Webber and his team.

Visually, this production had the look and feel of an 80s rock concert, with loud outlandish costumes, gravity defying hair and strobe lights that reach far into the audience. Numerous times during the performance, the actors beckoned at the audience to "wave your arms in the air", clap along or shout certain words (typically reticent Singaporeans that we are, we just meekly clapped along). Musical styles run the gamut from 80s rock anthems and ballads to Louis Armstrong-like blues-jazz, Elvis, 60s girl-groups, hip-hop and disco.

For all his bel canto stylings of Phantom, one forgets that Andrew Lloyd Webber's early success was in using pop music styles in musicals, a breakthrough for its time, creating musicals that resemble rock concerts in certain moments. Of course, no one expects to take a plot about the love lives of toy trains seriously, and the different musical styles, greatly contrasting and neatly arranged into set pieces, sometimes come off almost as parodies of the styles they are imitating.

I have always expressed to whoever would listen that live theatre is really the most definitive 3D experience, no glasses nedded (and that live unamplified sound is the ultimate Dolby-Digital-Whatever). The 3D clips that showed the trains racing, while very well-produced, only highlighted what we are missing without the actors physically acting out the races. Nonetheless it did provide a change in aesthetics, and are nicely segued in with the live action.

Throughout the two hour show the cast skated and pulled off complicate choreography with professional ease. no fault can be placed on the high level of every performers' skill and commitment. While the plot is paper thin, it provides for a setting to present impressively well rehearsed song and dance routines (most of the cast have been involved with previous revivals). The cast's chemistry and rapport is airtight, with every dance move perfectly in sync, and every note sung in place and with character.

A sing-along medley of the show's songs served as an extended encore, a finale aimed at pleasing the audience one last time as well as have them humming the tunes as they leave. This is great theatrical experience for those looking for a rollin' good time.

More pictures available on our Facebook Group.

Find out how to get tickets at the Events Page!

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