Behind the scenes at Starlight Express

Starlight Express is billed as the “fastest show on earth”. But getting a theatre ready for it is no quick-fix.

It is billed as the "fastest show on earth".

But getting a theatre ready for it is no quick-fix.

When audience members take their seats at Norwich's Theatre Royal tonight, they will have little idea of the hard work that went in to transforming the venue for Andrew Lloyd Webber's dazzling Starlight Express.

Although the new production of has been specially created to tour the country, it still takes five lorry loads of kit and 35 crew to create the spectacular backdrop for the story - known for the fast-moving skills of its roller-skating stars.


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Work began on Sunday and continued throughout Bank Holiday Monday ready for an initial skate round last night, ahead of this evening's opening performance.

Matt Towell, production manager, said: "We bring our own interlocking floor which is made from a very hard laminate that has no chips or bumps in it. We really have to make sure it is level because they spin round really fast and if it is out they can veer off to one side.

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"We have five 45ft lorries worth of scenery, equipment and costumes and have 20 local people from the theatre and bring in 15 freelance staff to set it all up. We start with an empty theatre and go from there. This version of the show is basically a one size fits all but it can be a bit of a squeeze."

Mr Towell, who lives in Stratford upon Avon, has toured with many shows during his 20 year career, including Grease, Cats, Dr Doolittle and Tommy.

He has also worked in West End hits including Bombay Dreams and most recently Acorn Antiques.

Starlight Express first burst onto stage at London's Apollo Victoria Theatre in March 1984.

It took £140m at the box office during its 18 year run and played to a staggering 8m people before its final performance in 2002.

The touring show has been specially created by members of the original creative team including legendary designer John Napier responsible for Cats, Les Misérables, Miss Saigon and Strictly Come Dancing.

Featuring a 20 strong cast, including Norwich actress Bekki Carpenter, the feel good show revolves around rivalries between diesel, electric and steam engines.

Starlight Express runs until June 24. Tickets cost from £5 and can be booked by calling 01603 630000 or by logging on to www.theatreroyal norwich.co.uk

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