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Starlight Express at Bristol Hippodrome – Review




Bill Kenwright presents one of the best loved and longest running musicals in theatrical history, as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sensational Starlight Express explodes back onto the stage with a new production, set to take the UK by electrifying storm.

Starlight Express opened to packed houses at the Apollo Victoria in London’s West End in 1984 where it ran for over 7000 performances. It is one of the most successful musicals ever with the German production still running in Bochum after 25 years.

Once again the show promises to take you on the ride of a lifetime – with two hours of speed, spectacle, energy, daredevil stunts and turbo charged excitement, combined with an electrifying sound track, dazzling sets and costumes and extraordinary roller-choreography set to music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.



My big boys and I love going to the theatre, so when we were invited to the press launch of Starlight Express I was very flattered but also a bit scared! As a Bristolian I’ve been going to the Bristol Hippodrome since I was a child and in more recent years with my own children, so to be at this amazing institution in a ‘professional’ capacity was a tiny bit daunting. I told the boys they needed to be on their absolutely best behaviour  as they were representing Practically Perfect Mums . . .

Preparing for Starlight Express


We arrived in plenty of time to have a pre-show drink. It’s no secret that theatre drinks are pricey  –  a G&T and a bottle of beer came to £9, but we thought it best to immerse ourselves into the whole theatre experience. I wouldn’t want to be accused of not being thorough!  The boys were much more thrifty than us and ‘chose’ tap water.

We couldn’t wait to try on our funky cardboard ‘Starlight Express’ logo-ed 3D glasses and I think you’ll agree we look pretty cool in them! The boys were very excited and whilst waiting for the show to begin, wanted to know everything from the storyline to what the 3D glasses were for. As we were being bombarded with questions, Practically Perfect Dad and I realised we were pretty clueless – all we knew for sure was that roller skates were involved!


Starlight Express - Mykal Rand as Electra - credit Eric Richmond



Without giving too much away this is a fairly simple tale about love and hope in the face of adversity. The characters are various types of railway engines, trains and rolling stock. Skate wheels – train wheels – you see how that could work?


I was surprised that I didn’t really know any of the songs beforehand. The singing was great but I didn’t find the music as memorable as some shows where the tunes keep going round my head for days after.


The 3D inserts were fun, fast and furious and without giving too much away, the flying bat and nibbling mouse seemed to be just inches from our faces!


For me this is what made our evening at Starlight Express. Hats off to Arlene Philips for two hours of skating, stunts and clever choreography. To my untrained eye, the roller skating looked clever and flawless. Sometimes dozens of dancers filled the stage, skilfully dashing around in different directions, apparently effortlessly – and nobody fell over or bumped into anyone else. And as if that wasn’t enough there were skaters descending from above and then after dancing around a bit, flying back up. At times I was torn between watching the action on stage and my 6 year old’s entranced face. He couldn’t help but loudly exclaim “whoa!” at a somersault performed on a skate ramp and I could almost see the cogs going round as he visualised trying that next time he visits Salthouse Fields skate ramp in Clevedon!


Considering that Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote Starlight Express originally for his own children, I was surprised to note that the audience was made up almost entirely of adults. This may be partly due to the late end time of the evening performance.

Trainboy (9) and Bubble (6) had no problem following the storyline – even pointing out a couple of subtleties to me which I’d missed while taking notes! When the female lead Pearl was having an emotional crisis, Bubble informed me which of the love interests he thought she should opt for – and suffice to say he chose wisely.

I thought this was an ideal children’s show, although the skimpy outfits and non-existent skirts worn by the female cast (Bridget Jones eat your heart out!) may have appealed to quite a a different audience sector.



Starlight Express



The raking of the seats is not quite steep enough for a little lad so Bubble has learnt to ‘look after’ everyone’s coats during the show and makes himself an impromptu booster cushion with them.

Allow plenty of time to use the loo before the show and during the interval, as the queue for the ladies can be quite long.

If your children are younger or are unlikely to manage late nights, you may be better off with a matinee performance.



My boys loved Starlight Express! They watched the show avidly, even though it was almost 10pm by the time it finished.

My four year old wouldn’t have coped with the length or lateness of the evening performance of Starlight Express, but I’m planning on taking him to see Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom at the Hippodrome in May.

I would thoroughly recommend this show for slightly older children – particularly if, like mine, they are interested in dance, skating, scootering, stunts or trains!

(Warning – Practically Perfect Mums cannot accept any responsibility for any stunts your children may want to try after seeing this show!)

If you’re thinking of going along to see Starlight Express, Enjoy the Show! And please do come back and let me know how you get on.



To read any of my show reviews, please click the titles below





Starlight Express will have it’s skates on at The Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 6th April 2013

For more details of prices and times click on The Calendar

You can find our review of Joseph here


We received a family ticket for the purposes of this review (as well as wines and orange juices during the interval – thank you)
however all opinions expressed are mine or those of my family (except for the cleverly written show blurb in italics – right at the top) ;).

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