Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express, perhaps the most curious of musicals, will close in London today after a run of 18 years.
Lord Lloyd-Webber will be in the audience for what will be an emotional final performance of the roller-skating extravaganza. The show, in which the performers pretend to be trains and skate along tracks into the audience, is now the second longest-running musical in West End history. Another of his shows, Cats, has run for 21 years.
Lord Lloyd-Webber wrote the show for his children, who are now aged 22 and 24. He said he would like to recreate it to appeal to a new generation. He also wants to take it on tour in a "purpose-built environment", possibly a giant marquee. In Germany, the show is staged in a purpose-built theatre.
Lord Lloyd-Webber also wants to use the musical's London theatre, the Apollo, to produce a Bollywood musical, which he has conceived, although he will not be writing the music for it.
The closure has taken fellow West End producers by surprise because tickets are selling well. Over its run, Starlight Express, which has lyrics by Richard Stilgoe, has been seen by more than eight million people. It has taken more than £140m in Britain and £450m worldwide, including Canada, Japan, Australia and Mexico.
Starlight Express amazed audiences at its opening with its use of technology, its roller-skating cast and its vast set wrapping around and through the audience. Even now, it is the most technologically advanced show in the West End.
"Starlight Express has had an amazing run," the composer said yesterday. "It is a show very dear to my heart ... I want to turn it into something my younger children will enjoy. Its final performance will be a very emotional experience for all of us who have been close to it for the past 18 years."
The musical will continue its record-breaking run in a purpose-built theatre in Bochum, Germany, where it first opened in June 1988.
"I have long wanted to see Starlight Express presented in Britain in a purpose-built environment as we have in Germany," said the composer. He confirmed its closure would allow this to go ahead, while freeing the theatre for his new musical, Bombay Dreams.
Lord Lloyd-Webber's Really Useful Company is planning an animated television series based on Starlight Express.There are also plans for a stadium production of the show in other countries.