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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 14:40 GMT
Starlight Express set to hit buffers
Starlight Express
The show has got its skates on more than 7,000 times
Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit musical Starlight Express is finally coming to the end of the line.

After a 18-year run, the roller-skating extravaganza will be performed for the last time on Saturday 12 January at London's Apollo Victoria theatre.

By that time, the show will have played 7,406 times to more than eight million people.

The show is the second-longest running musical in West End history, after another Lloyd Webber musical, Cats - which has been showing for 20 years.


Starlight Express has had an amazing run

Lord Lloyd-Webber

Starlight Express, produced by Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, marries Lord Lloyd Webber's music to lyrics by Richard Stilgoe.

The musical, which was first written for children, has taken more than 140m ($201m) at the London box office and toured the stages of the world.

Canada, Japan, Australia and Mexico are among the countries where Starlight has transported audiences.

Hardcore Starlight fans waiting outside the theatre for final show tickets paid tribute to the long-running show.

Jenny Perry has seen the show 180 times and admits that some of her friends are puzzled at her dedication to the show.

Helen Latham in Starlight Express
Helen Latham (right) plays Dinah the Dining Car

"People say: 'Why have you seen it so many times? Isn't it the same?'

"The thing is, with musical theatre, it's not the same - especially Starlight."

Helen Latham, who was plucked from the ranks of novice skaters to perform in Starlight, recalled the steep learning curve she had been on over the past year as Dinah the Dining Car.

"The S-bend has been the bane of my life," she reflected. I smashed right across it into the side once and sort of ricocheted off.

"It was quite amusing - afterwards."

Lord Lloyd-Webber said earlier: "Its final performance will be a very emotional experience for all of us who have been close to it for the past 18 years.

Lord Lloyd-Webber
Lord Lloyd-Webber created the score with lyricist Richard Stilgoe

"Starlight Express has had an amazing run.

"It is a show dear to my heart as I wrote it for my older children, now 24 and 22, and I want to turn it into something my younger children will enjoy," he said.

Fans of the show can look forward to other presentations of the musical, including a national tour and a television series.

"I have long wanted to see it presented in Britain in a purpose-built environment, as we have in Germany," said Lord Lloyd Webber.

Replacement

Plans are also being made for a stadium production of the show in other countries.

Starlight Express
Fast track: Sir Andrew meets the rolling stock

"Starlight's closure provides the perfect opportunity to plan this while freeing up the theatre for my production of the musical Bollywood Dreams," said Lord Lloyd-Webber.

The show is directed by Trevor Nunn and designed by John Napier, with choreography by Arlene Phillips.

Starlight Express opened on 27 March 1984, and, like some other Lloyd Webber musicals, did not receive a favourable critical reception - but proved a huge hit with audiences.

See also:

11 Jan 02 | Showbiz
The facts behind the Starlight
21 Aug 01 | Showbiz
Lloyd Webber's musical journey
19 Jul 01 | Arts
West End musical chairs
11 Jul 01 | Showbiz
Full-time called on Beautiful Game
09 May 01 | Arts
Cats celebrates 20th year
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