Newsday from New York, New York on March 16, 1987 · 107
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Newsday from New York, New York · 107

New York, New York
Issue Date:
Monday, March 16, 1987
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' V. ? 1 ' 'Sf IE -w T E R T A I IV- M IE NT T 'Express: Its Musical On Wheels STARUGHT EXPRESS. Musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Richard Stilgoe (lyrics). Directed by Trevor Nunn; choreographed by Arlene Phillips. With Greg Mowry, Revs Rice, Jane Krakowski, Andrea McArdle, Robert Torti, Ken Ard, Steve Fowler, Michael Scott Gregory and others. Gershwin Theater on Broadway. WHEN YOU ENTER the Gershwin Theater, you marvel at the three-level wonderland the gifted Hwrignw John Napier has created for "Starlight Express, a spectacular race course winding around a panorama of the United States. If only the show went somewhere on all those tracks, bridges and Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and his teammates have poured their efforts into a musical thats lavish, silly and a bit chilly. A show about railroad trains, "Starlight Express is really about high-speed roller skating and high-tech glitter. Left behind at the station is the exhilarating fusion of music, dance and charm we get from the best musicals. The record $8-million show will undoubtedly be a hit on Broadway, as it has been for three years in London. Its calculated mix of elements contains a Cinderella story in a Disneyland setting, akating races that owe something to the brawling roller derby and a heavily miked Lloyd Webber score that owes something to styles ranging from blues to rock. In a program note, Lloyd Webber traces the shows genesis to a 1973 request that he compose the music for a TV cartoon series based on the "Thomas the Tank Engine stories, a British equivalent of "The Little Engine That Could. By now all thats left of storybook wonder is the amplified voice of an unseen hoy , imagining the rail- ramps. THEATER REVIEW Martta Swept a Auoclatei A Starlight Express scene with Greg Mowry, Reva Rice, Jane Krakowsld, Lola Knox, Andrea McArdle road races and animuneing them like a gee-whiz sportscaster. With Britains Trevor Nunn aboard as director, the show has been refashioned for America. Although the locomotives and railroad cars are still simulated by roller skaters (wearing Napier-designed futuristic costumes), the races now take place around the U. S. instead of an abandoned -rail yard, and theyre confined to the large Gershwin stage instead of encompassing the entire theater. Lloyd Webber and lyricist Richard Stilgoe have added two new songs and reworked the rest. The races, which begin as a competition among trains representing seven nations, somehow turn into a contest among three types of locomotive diesel, electric and steam. The diesel is the reigning champ, Americas Greasball (Robert Torti), a muscular sort who resorts to dirty tricks to win. (A Britiah-eye view of America?) His chief com-titor is the sleek Electra (Ken Ard). The Cin-outsider is Rusty (Greg Mowry), an old-fashioned steam locomotive with a smudged face. Hie isnt given a chance, despite the advice of a kind of fairy godfather, an old blues singer (Steve Fowler). Even Rustys railroad-car love interest (Reva Rice) deserts him. Nunn has directed the show with an efficiency Amtrak would envy, but the various locomotives and railroad cars arent given enough personality to make you care what happens. If you cant guess who wins out in either the romance or the race, chances are youve missed all those "Rocky flicks (slyly represented by cars from what else? the Rock Island Line). Lloyd Webbers score, like his earlier ones, is eclectic. Among the more likable numbers are a country tune for a dining ear (Jane Krakowski) and a bit of double entendre for a sleeping car (Janet Williams Adderley). Most of the other music is tepid theater rock. Only the title song the shows bid for the singular success of the "Cats hit "Memories is catchy. I admired the way the performers manage to sing while racing at top speed or doing acrobatic roller tricks. Theyre easily upstaged, though, by Napiers computerized set, dominated by a steel bridge that turns, tilts and slides, and backed at times by a sky of shooting stars. It makes "Starlight Express a triumph of technology. But give me an old-fashioned show in which the sets stay still and our emotions are moved, n Bill Cosby and His Digressions at Radio City Btl COSBY. The comedian, Friday night at Radio City Music Hall. HeD return for concerts March 27 through 29. LETS SEE. Youve got Cosby on The Cosby Show, youve got him on the kids TV "Picture Page" feature, youve got him in commercials for what seems like half the Fortune 500 and a few doz- THEATER REVIEW en smaller, companies, youve got him in T Si peat him eats, youve got in movies, on record albums could anyone possibly want more Cosby? Count me in. Its not that Bill Cosby was all that consistently hilarious in the first of his sold out shows last weekend at Radio City, where hell return March 27. Its just that hes such engaging company, such a pleasant raconteur. Since irs unlikely you can get him to come over to your house, you Cosby will return March 27. might as well lay out the $30 or $35 to see him in his. Rather than consisting of jokes or routines, Cosbys 2tt-hour show (there is no opening act, and he began promptly) was a seamless monologue, full of long, mining digTBS-. sions. Much of the first hour or so concerned life in Manhattan, its image across the country, the fierce and strange denizens who populate it. But that opened the gate for Cosby's ruminations on the tough charac ters growing up in his Philadelphia neighborhood ("guys could make a gun out of an old flute), and how complicated drugs have gotten. Cosby may have surprised some for whom hes a symbol of unshakable moral uprightness by waning almost nostalgic for the days when cocaine would get someone high by simply snorting it, before complications (such as crack) went into both thepreparation and the reaction. This somehow led to delivery men in Manhattan office building elevators, maniacal bike messengers, pedestrians who stare down cars in crosswalks, the cost of hot dogs at Madison Square Garden, and finally, to street crazies. Before Cosby tied up his tale about these people who talk to walls in the city (Sou can always tell out of towners, because out of towners always try to answer them), he was onto bow the price of Orange juice in hotels made him decide to buy a house in the city. And it was nearly half an hour before he finished that particular story. But not until he tore into the lunatic drivers of Boston and Houston, and childrens perceptions of their fathers. (When he finally did resolve the story about the orange juice, Cosby found his way into one of the evenings funnier bits, which was about conjugating the verb "squeezed). Cosby was the first to admit that his memory isn't all that it used to be. He is, after all, 49, and much of the last hour was spent exploring the nuances of health and bodily changes that come with reaching that ripe old age. But with that came more hilar ious digressions, indnHing one on the. style male teenagers bring to the hobby politely known as paaaing wind. And how "murmur isnt really a word, certainly not like forceful expressions such as "what! and "disregard are words. There were no props to speak o just a Formica chair and a small table with a pitcher of some liquid, which, remarkably, Cosby never needed to draw from. Not too many similarly ancient, decrepit follows have the atamina to do this kind of non-stop show without at least taking a sip. If he lays oft the salt he adores, and keeps dodging the triglycerides, who knows? Cosby just might make it to the big five-o. n NEWSDAY, MONDAY, MARCH 16, 1907 NY Part II 7 t ii 1 t $ a in . i r i

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