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Chris High reviews: Liverpool Empire performance of Starlight Express 2007

The Starlight Express: The 3RD Dimension

Kristofer Harding, Gemma Atkins, Michael Samuels, Tom Kanavan, Mykal Rand, Lucy-Jane Adcock, Amy Thornton, Kimmi Richards, Glenn Robb

Starlight Express The 3rd Dimension :  promotional image


Director: Arlene Phillips
Musical Director: David Rose
Skating Consultant: Michael Fraley
Liverpool Empire Theatre
Wednesday 7th February, 2007

A bit like those on the national rail service, the trains of Starlight Express: 3rd Dimension arrived at their “platform” late. Not that it mattered. With this show, there is more than enough speed and exhilaration to make ten minutes seem like ten seconds … eventually.

This was my first experience of Starlight, whether it be in the 3rd Dimension or not, and it has to be said that it was a little disappointing that it got off to such a slow start with virtually every character being introduced to the audience beforehand.

Surely there is a way to have this information drip-fed throughout the story of trains from different energetic backgrounds – Steam, Diesel and Electric – racing to become champion.

With this quibble aside, though, there is no doubting the energy and talent of the cast, as things begin to whip along at a pace in the build up to Heat 1. Difficult enough to skate, spin, somersault and slide, one might think, without having to sing throughout as well and whilst wearing costumes that must be cumbersome to say the least.

Kristofer Harding, acting in his first major role since graduating stage school, was superb as the hero of the piece, Rusty, a steam engine with dreams of winning the heart of new girl on the block, Pearl. That he is a talent in the making there can be little doubt, as Kristofer threw all of his energy into a role made up mainly of simpering loss and determined enthusiasm. His singing of the signature song was both haunting and uplifting enough to draw ooh’s from every corner of the auditorium.

Gemma Atkins played Pearl and was just selfish enough in the role to be credible, though sadly her voice was, on occasions, just a little drowned out by the unseen orchestra. Wake Up My Heart, however, was almost worth the entry fee on it’s own.

Other credits should go to Michael Samuels in the role of Poppa, who has a voice deep and bluesy enough to be cavernous, as he belts out There’s A Light At The End Of The Tunnel with a gusto that never appeared diminished or tired.

Tom Kanavan and Mykal Rand also, who played Rusty’s “enemies”, Greaseball and Electra, were also superb in their roles. Kanavan’s Pumping Iron was great dancing fun, whereas Rand’s AC/DC had enough electricity to light up the stage single-handed. Together, they delivered One Rock And Roll Too Many superbly.

Highlight of the night, however, has to be that of Lucy-Jane Adcock in the role of Greaseball’s jilted girlfriend, Dinah (guess what type of carriage Dinah is). A Country & Western girl at heart, Dinah belts out a hilarious parody of D.I.V.O.R.C.E. with U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D that has the audience laughing out loud and whooping and hollering in support at its end.

In fact the songs are the major unifying factor with this show, as all genres are catered for from Rap to Rock, Hip-Hop to Dance, Blues to Country and all with just a little sense of their being heard before. Kids will recognise Whole Lotta Locomotion being done in the style of Destiny’s Child, for instance.

Overall, Starlight Express: 3rd Dimension is a lot of fun, is fast and beautifully staged and choreographed, though the 3-D aspect could do with some work, and is well worth the effort of getting your skates on for.

Chris High interviews Gemma Atkins and Kristofer Harding

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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
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