Interview with Mykal Rand | Starlight Express
The electrifying Starlight Express is calling at The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre this February! Mykal Rand, the shows Associate Director and Choreographer, chats with Gillian Hopper about his long-time journey with the show and its exciting new ventures... 3D glasses at the ready!
One of the longest running musicals in theatrical history, Starlight Express opened in 1984; what has made it such a hit?
That’s a hard question to answer. The show itself is such a great spectacle. When it first opened in 1984 it was so ahead of its time, the whole concept, the fact that the whole cast were all on skates lighting, set, everything! It is just so futuristic, such a fantasy. I think it captures people’s imagination.
And the choreography/ directing is pretty great too I hear…?
It was great working with Arlene Phillips, the show’s director. I was assisting with her and it has been a real schooling for me. Learning how to put a show together, and updating it without losing its integrity. I feel the show has moved on in a good way.
You play Electra, the new challenger and ‘engine of the future’; do you thrive on playing the bad guy?
Oh yeh, it’s always good to play a baddy. Before, in other versions of the show I’ve played Rusty and other characters too and that’s good fun, but it’s nice to be a bad guy and let the evil side out.
Skating isn’t a common prerequisite for a performer’s CV; how does this effect casting? Is it a question of intensive skate training once someone is assigned a role?
It really varies from production to production. With this production, when we came into it we wanted to concentrate on making the choreography harder, so we needed people who could already skate. Usually when they audition people for Starlight they’re dancers and singers and don’t necessarily know how to skate at all and will go through skate school. But for this show, everyone had to have done it already to keep up with the pace of rehearsals.
Originally Andrew Llyod-Webber wrote this show for his own children. Now, the show’s new song, "I Do", is written by his son, Alistair. Is Starlight Express a show for all the family?
People love it from the age of four to eighty, ninety years old. You can’t give it a target age group it’s a show for all the family.
Touring productions often have to refine and pair down their sets to suit a variety of theatres while on tour. Railway tracks aren’t particularly portable; how is this compensated for visually in the show?
In West End permanent productions we have tracks that go out into the audience. This is great for the audience, who get a real feeling of the train passing around the station, and around the tracks. This is difficult to do with the touring version of the show so they came up with the idea of using 3D film. The action still comes out to the audience who duck as the trains go past. Kids absolutely love it. It’s very exciting!
You have performed with Starlight Express in London, Japan, Germany, on the UK tour and New Zealand tour over an 18 year period. You have played the roles of Rusty, Poppa and Electra, AND are currently associate director and associate choreographer. Do you ever grow tired of the show and think about hanging up your skates?
It was my first West End show; I was 17 years old. I’ve done other stuff as well but always come back to Starlight because it’s just such a great and strong show to do. In this cast especially everyone cast knows each other, or knows of each other, so there’s a little family vibe. Maybe I grow tired, but never too tired of doing it; it’s very good fun.
Is there any sign of another Andrew Lloyd Webber BBC series on the horizon? What show/role would you like to see revived next?
Oh wow. I don’t know if there will be another programme, I’m sure there will be. It’s a great way to cast and publicise a show. As far as what show I’d like to see revised, I don’t know... there are so many great shows out there I don’t know what to choose!
Starlight Express will be playing at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from Tuesday 18th – Saturday 23rd February 2013. Tickets priced from €20.00 on sale now. “The race is on...”
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Monday 28th January 2013 | Theatre
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