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London ‘Express’ rolls to a stop

Last performance to be Jan. 12

LONDON — “Starlight Express,” the roller-skating extravaganza that is second only to “Cats” among long-running West End musicals, will steam its way one last time through the Apollo Victoria Theater on Jan. 12, two months shy of its 18th birthday.

It will be replaced at that theater next summer by “Bombay Dreams,” a new show produced but not written by “Starlight” composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

By the time it closes, “Starlight” will have played 7,406 perfs to more than 8 million people, grossing more than $200 million. It’s the second Lloyd Webber musical to announce a London closing in as many months, following “The Beautiful Game,” which is entering its final week at the Cambridge Theater.

In an interview with Daily Variety last month, Lloyd Webber expressed his surprise at the longevity of the show: “Just when you think, ‘Well, now it’s time to go bye-bye,’ ‘Starlight’ does this inexplicable surge that you want to put down to superb marketing.”

A largely Americanized version of the show opened on Broadway in March 1987 to notably little enthusiasm, including a blistering pan from Frank Rich in the New York Times, who called the environmental musical set in the world of train travel “the perfect gift for the kid who has everything except parents.”

As for its replacement in London, the Bollywood-themed “Bombay Dreams” has a score by A.R. Rahman, who is based in Madras, and a book by London-based Meera Syal. Steven Pimlott is directing, with designs by Mark Thompson and filmmaker Shekhar Kapur (“Elizabeth”) on hand as production adviser. Budgeted at about $6 million, the show is expected to open in June.

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