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'Starlight Express' races onto the Tuacahn stage

Published: Saturday, June 15 2013 1:00 p.m. MDT

Todd DuBail is Greaseball, the leader of the diesel engine trains, in "The Starlight Express" show now on stage at the Tuacahn Outdoor Amphitheatre in Ivins.

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STARLIGHT EXPRESS; music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Richard Stilgoe; Tuacahn Outdoor Amphitheatre, 1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins; Tuesday, Thursdays, Saturdays through Oct. 24; directed by Louanne Madorma-Williams; tickets $21.50-$69.50 at tuacahn.org; running time 2 hours, one 15-minute intermission

IVINS, Washington County — If you've never seen or heard of "Starlight Express," it may seem a little odd at first.

You have big guys dressed like train engines and train cars racing around the track at full speed on roller skates with no apparent heed to the danger involved.

You have powerful ’70s era music with plenty of the woo-woos, flashing lights and smoke that come with trains. There are fireworks, showers of sparks, 3D effects and dramatic derailments.

It makes for an adrenaline rush and an unusually entertaining show.

Add in a simple story of a little guy playing with his trains and it all suddenly makes sense.

The rules for the race, the collisions, the high drama are all the kinds of things a small boy would imagine as he plays in the dark after he's supposed to be in bed.

If you have seen "Starlight Express" either in Las Vegas while it was the Hilton's house attraction or in Germany where it's run for 25 years, you might think Tuacahn managers are crazy to bring in something so big and demanding.

Even the director, Loanne Madorma-Williams, who worked with the show in Vegas, had her doubts at first.

But she, associate director Ryan Norton and a courageous cast pull it off.

"I quickly came to understand that at Tuacahn, you go big or go home!" Madorma-Williams said just prior to the opening-night show.

There's plenty of energy, charisma, power and speed in this production, which is impressive given the heat and heavy costumes they have to work in (105 degrees at night, up to 115 during the day when they rehearse).

C. Mingo Long is the booming voice of Poppa and The Starlight Express, the kind of rich, deep bass voice that the show demands.

Todd DuBail is Greaseball, the Elvis-type character who plays the lead diesel engine with attitude. He's sexy and full of self-confidence as are his gang members.

Dustin DuBreuil is Electra, a high-speed, sleek engine with alternating power and attraction. The special effects that go with Electra spark and burn. "Resistance is pointless!" he brags.

Steven M. Goldsmith plays the part of Rusty, the steam engine unsure of what he can accomplish even though his aged father needs him to fill in after he tries but finds he's too old to finish the championship race.

Delaney Westfall is a gorgeous Pearl (sleeper car) who has to choose between the engine she loves and the more glamorous guys who want her as their partner for the race.

Gail Bennett plays the part of Dinah (the dining car part of the train) and steals the show briefly when she sings "U-N-C-O-U-P-L-E-D," which is hilarious.

Payton Kemp plays the young boy commanding the show from his bedroom. The child is not usually portrayed live. You just hear his voice. In this production, it helps explain the story and gives it heart.

It all works.

Here is a chance to see this show in its regional premiere on a stage outfitted specifically for the skaters.

It's well done, with no expense spared.

It's high-speed entertainment and it's something different with 3D "safety goggles" in a few significant scenes.

Go now before it gets any hotter.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@deseretnews.com

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