Review: Starlight Express, Sunderland Empire, until November 24

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I’m not sure how it’s possible to feel empathy for a train - but Starlight Express makes you do just that.

Whether it’s rooting for Rusty as he chases the female carriage of his dreams or gunning for Greaseball as he speeds his way around the racetrack, you find yourself falling for the personalities of these trains on skates, such is the charm of the show.

The plot of the piece is mostly told through song, which can make it difficult to understand all the words, but as purely a stage spectacle there’s not much that can touch Starlight.

The multi-talented troupe whizz their way around the stage like they were born on wheels. Starlight veteran Mykal Rand oozes charisma as Electra and you can’t help but take your eyes off him as he runs circles around his railway opponents.

The female characters in particular were utterly delightful. Ruthie Stephens put in an impressive turn as Dinah and her rendition of U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D, complete with a Dolly Parton twang, was a highlight of the show.

I was lucky enough to see this musical when it ran in the West End using a train track which arched into the audience. The race scenes are not conveyed in this way on tour due to the logistics of removing theatre seats, but the 3D screen used instead is a good substitute.

In fact, being presenting with 3D glasses on arrival at the theatre gave the show an extra special dimension for my nine-year-old niece, Amy.

Indeed, of all the musicals that are out there, this is one of the best for children thanks to its simplistic plot and novelty choreography.

For adults, it won’t change your world, but it may well have you digging out your old skates.

Katy Wheeler