Starlight Express

But in Vegas, "Starlight" lives, and what was garish and soulless even by the standards of contemporary Broadway megamusicals, seems positively quaint in these surroundings.

But in Vegas, “Starlight” lives, and what was garish and soulless even by the standards of contemporary Broadway megamusicals, seems positively quaint in these surroundings.

Two years ago, the Las Vegas Hilton rebuilt its main showroom to accommodate the show, filling the stage and a small section of the front orchestra with John Napier’s wavy ramps and speedways. Several songs and the intermission were cut — no loss there — to squeeze it into the standard 90-minute format.

In “Starlight,” male actors play different kinds of train engines — steam, electric, diesel — vying for rail supremacy with the support of female actors playing passenger cars. A hunky contingent of men play freight cars, and there’s a caboose, too.

The story, such is it is, concerns a challenge to the American diesel champ, Greaseball (Rod Weber), by Electra (Anthony Perry) along with several stereotypically appointed international models. It also concerns the fickle affections of a passenger car named Pearl (Reva Rice), who has a tendency to go with the flow, breaking the heart of the hopelessly outdated Rusty (Freddie T).

That “Starlight” even has a storyline puts it way out in front among the more glittery revues in town. The show has some appeal as family entertainment, and at $ 49.50, it’s a bargain compared with $ 70 for “EFX” and a whopping $ 78.50 for Siegfried & Roy.

Still, the “Starlight” score is the worst in the Lloyd Webber canon, a pedestrian pastiche of rock, country and blues melodies made even more groan-inducing by lyrics that are at best mediocre. By comparison, the similar pop-music catalog Lloyd Webber devised for his first show, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” is infinitely more appealing.

The company seems adept at negotiating the tricky race scenes, though anyone who cares about the live human beings under all those whizzing costumes will hardly be comforted in the knowledge that the production boasts an on-call ambulance.

Still, the pulsating lights and throbbing music seem completely in synch with the surroundings. Whatever dangers it presents its cast, for the audience, the desert edition of “Starlight Express” is fairly painless.

Starlight Express

(Las Vegas Hilton; 1,572 seats; $ 49.50 top)

  • Production: A Troika Organization and Las Vegas Hilton presentation, in association with the Starlight Vegas Co. Inc., of a musical in one act with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Richard Stilgoe; directed and
  • Crew: Choreographed by Arlene Phillips; musical direction, Jan Rosenberg; orchestrations and arrangements, David Cullen, Lloyd Webber; set and costumes, John Napier; lighting and special effects, Rick Belzer (automated lighting, Aland Henderson; conventional lighting , Douglas Cox; lasers, Floyd Rollefstad); conductor, Wayne Green; film, Kevin Biles Design; pyrotechnics, John Bordeaux; performance and dance supervisor, Bobby Love; stunts, Todd Lester; wigs and hair, Bernie Ardia; skate supervisor, Michael Fraley. Opened Sept. 14, 1993; reviewed May 26, 1995. Running time: 90 min.
  • Cast: Cast: Rod Weber (Greaseball), Freddie T (Rusty), Anthony T. Perry (Electra) , Jimmy Lockett (Poppa), Reva Rice (Pearl), Dawn Marie Church (Dinah), Jennifer Bizik (Ashley), Amanda Clark (Buffy), Michael Carl King (Rocky I), Tony Cordell (Rocky II), Leo Alvarez (Rocky III), Chris Castillo (Red Caboose), Tom Gamblin (Dustin), Paul Finocchiaro (Flat-Top); Buddy Casimano, Eric Jordan Young, Robert Dean, Freddy Moretine, Steven Kent Dry, Mark Moschello, Todd Lester, Brad Anderson, Natasha Rennalls, Nelson Yee, Terence Yancey, Kelly Love, Nicole Driscola, etc. Andrew Lloyd Webber's choo-choo tuner, "Starlight Express," opened on Broadway in March 1987 with an $ 8 million tab it was never to recoup. While the show is still running in London, New York audiences weren't buying a childlike fable about a train race, featuring actors zooming about on roller skates, that seemed bloated out of all proportion at the cavernous Gershwin Theater. The show limped along for a couple of seasons before finally throwing in the towel at a considerable loss.