Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Starlight Express

Roller skates. Remember them? Back in the 1980s when they were all the fashion, I was desperate for a pair, just like everyone else in my neighbourhood. The other neighbourhood children all had trendy boot skates, just like the ones you see on tv, but parents could only afford to buy me skates that strapped on around my shoes. It's true that I could still skate (and fall over) just like everyone else, but it wasn't quite the same and I couldn't help wanting what they had.

There is a small cul-de-sac of about ten houses which slopes downhill just opposite my parents' house. The neighbourhood children would skate (slide?) down this street, try to jump up onto the footpath at the bottom of the hill, then stop ourselves by smacking into the fence at the end at high speed. We would then take off our skates, walk back up the hill, and start again. Finally, shoe skates were better; those with boot skates had to walk up the hill barefoot or with their socks on, whereas I still had my shoes. Also, when others grew out of their expensive boot skates, I could still wear mine. Part of me still wanted boot skates, though.

Then along came inline skates and rollerblading. Skates with wheels were definitely not cool; they weren't even retro yet! Apart from a couple of ice skating sessions, I haven't skated since the 80s and am not particularly keen to try. Still, I can reminisce about the days when we would go whizzing up and down our street with both grace and speed, while conveniently overlooking all the scrapes and bruises.

We went to see Starlight Express on Saturday. A rock musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber for his children in 1984, Starlight Express boasts being the only musical performed entirely on roller skates. (Yes, skates, not blades!) Loosely described as a Cinderella-style story about a boy's train set which comes to life. The characters (trains) race to become "the fastest engine in the world", setting up an epic battle between steam, diesel and electricity.

From start to end, Starlight Express is action packed, fast-paced and a dazzling display of lights, costumes, makeup, choreography and skating action. In 1992, the musical was revised and some songs were added and deleted, with a couple of characters also changed. (I was disappointed to see that the beautiful piece "There's Me" made the cutting room floor; I've played it for years on the piano.) The stunt skating was impressive, as was the set design, lighting and special effects. It would take a lot to get this show on the road!

It's not often that a Lloyd Webber production comes to town. Starlight Express is not so well known in New Zealand, and with ticket prices more expensive than most shows (and a less-than convincing advertising campaign) sales were probably slower than expected. However, with so much to take in, it's easy to forget how naff the plot is and simply get caught up in enjoying the overall show as a sum of all its contributing parts.


Julie said...

I have wanted to see this for a couple of years now. I do home it comes across the pond.

Sharon Creech said...

I had those strap-on skates, too. The bent, always lost key, remember that?

Kelly said...

I had strap on skates too - hand me downs from my sister. So embarrassing! I begged and begged Mum for a pair of boot skates which I finally got for my 10th birthday - and then outgrew the damn things in 6 months so it was back to the adjustable shoe skates again :(