Ice" is usually a negative term when used in conjunction with theatre (it has to do with box offices skimming profits off ticket sales), but not in venues across the U.S. where real ice will be an essential component of the latest touring production of Starlight Express.
That's right: Starlight Express -- on ice! The tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe's musical, originally performed on roller skates, began Aug. 29 at FL's Lakeland Center, featuring renowned skaters from all over the world. The tour will stretch into 1998 and reach New York just after the New Year.
Here's the international score-card of performers:
Julie Brault of Quebec, Canada, plays Dinah.
Fabrice Garattoni of Paris and Milan, plays Greaseball, the rock `n' roll racer.
Hank Green, American expatriate now living in the Netherlands, plays futuristic Electra. "He's fast and slick, big and flashy...I enjoy being a villain," Green says. Nadia Kovalevskaya, of Moscow, Russia, plays Buffy the buffet car. Her previous assignment for Feld Entertainment was in The Wizard Of Oz On Ice.
Norm Proft, from British Columbia, plays Rusty the steam engine.
Also skating are Natalia Zagorodnikova (Russia), Jennifer Schmitz (Germany), Serguei Kouznetsov (Russia), Tomoaki Koyama (Japan), Jeffrey Trott (Australia), Nikolay Ulanov (Russia), Vadim Shebeco (US), Cameron Medhurst (Canada), Alison Bennett (Canada), Amanda Frank (Canada), Monique Van der Velden (Holland), Luke Craig (Canada), Philip Garvis (Canada), Scott Irvine (US), Forrest McKinnon (USA), Richard Stringer (Canada), Lisa Dernsjo (Sweden), Stuart Bradley (UK), Stuart Clays (Wales), Gene "Gi G" Siruno (US), Lisa Bell (US), Brent Frank (Canada), Anne MacWilliams, Mark Naylor (US).
The skaters will be performing to pre-recorded music, taken from various previous productions of Starlight Express. (Because of "legal reasons," the producers couldn't say who the singers were, except for Roger Ridley, who plays Papa).
The plot of Starlight Express concerns a little boy dreaming of a Championshiop Railroad Race, with a lineup of international locomotives vying for the big prize. Songs include "He'll Whistle At Me," "AC/DC," "Make Up My Heart" and "Your Darkest Hour."
The Broadway Starlight Express opened March 12, 1987 and ran 761 performances. Webber conceived the story in 1975 as an idea for an animated film. When that didn't happen, the composer revised it and brought it to the West End in 1984. It's still there -- the second longest-running musical in London (after Cats).
Says producer Kenneth Feld, "We wanted to accomplish two things with this production. First, the show is all about speed, so we've doubled the size of the ice surface, allowing the skaters to reach amazing velocities. Second, everything takes place in the round, so there's no backstage -- it all happens right before your eyes." The production even puts audience members on the ice in flat cars as part of the races.
Designer Mark Fisher has fashioned ramps coated with soap-treated Teflon, as well as eight-foot bridges. Speeds are expected to reach 20 miles per hour (as opposed t ual, recreational pace of 2-3 mph). Costumes by Frank Krenz include hand-painted unitards overlayed with armor, gloves and skates.
Tickets for the Lakeland production are available by calling (941) 499 8111.
Here are the first five months of venues on the tour:
Sept. 6-7: Orlando Arena; Orlando, FL
Sept. 12-14: Rupp Arena; Lexington, KY
Sept. 18-21: Kiel Center; St. Louis, MO
Sept. 24-28: Rosemont Horizon; Rosemont, IL
Sept. 30-Oct. 5: United Center (or TBA); Chicago, IL
Oct. 8-12: Baltimore Arena; Baltimore, MD
Oct. 15-19: CoreStates Center; Philadelphia, PA
Oct. 22-26: Cumberland County Civic Center; Portland, ME
Oct. 29-Nov. 2: Providence Civic Center; Providence, RI
Nov. 5-9: Target Center; Minneapolis, MN
Nov. 12-16: Bradley Center; Milwaukee, WI
Nov. 19-23: Tarrant County Convention Center; Fort Worth, TX
Nov. 26-30: Summit; Houston, TX
Dec. 3-7: Joe Louis Arena; Detroit, MI
Dec. 10-14: Civic Arena; Pittsburgh, PA
Dec. 26-29: Fleet Center; Boston, MA
Jan. 2-4, 1998: New Haven Coliseum; New Haven, CT
Jan. 7-11, 1998: Hartford Civic Center; Hartford, CT
Jan. 15-18, 1998: Madison Square Garden; NYC, NY
Jan. 20-25, 1998: Nassau Coliseum; Uniondale, NY
Jan. 27-Feb. 1, 1998: Continental Airlines Arena; East Rutherford, NJ
--By David Lefkowitz