Belle the Sleeping Car

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P.P. Arnold as Belle in London, 1984

Belle, the Sleeping Car is a character from Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Starlight Express. She is an old sleeping car, who once raced with Poppa, and, like her former partner, has fallen on hard times in her age. She races with Rusty in heat 2, however they are beaten by Electra and Pearl. Belle goes on to argue Rusty's right to replace Poppa (who won heat 3) and she comforts Dinah and persuades her to fight back in "Rolling Stock (Reprise)".

Belle's role was minimised in the Broadway production, to her singing her solo then only reappearing for the finale. In all subsequent productions Belle was omitted from the show altogether, with the intent to streamline and shorten the productions.

Character[edit]

Belle is warm and motherly toward Rusty and the freight. She is not like the other coaches, but she is good friends with them and offers Dinah advice and comfort in "Rolling Stock (Reprise)". Belle is Poppa's coach from years back and according to some, (if the father-son theory about Poppa and Rusty is true) Rusty's mother. However this theory makes little sense as Rusty is introduced to Belle for the first time in "Belle's Song".

Inspiration[edit]

Belle is based loosely on Ella Fitzgerald, and similar blues divas. The name "Belle" in relation to railways is often used for luxury tourist services such as Brighton Belle, a Pullman train (UK). Many of the references in her song lyrics relate to this type of train, such as "A Pullman car when I was made/I went down for the seaside trade". This would suggest she served the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway on their London to Brighton main line.

Songs[edit]

  • Belle the Sleeping car - Solo -
  • The Rap - some solo lines.
  • Girl's Rolling stock - quartet, in which she sang the main vocal.

Belle's Song is a forgotten gem in Lloyd Webber's repertoire. Originally performed by P. P. Arnold, it is a powerful blues-inspired ballad in which Belle tells Rusty about her life as a luxury Sleeper. It bears contextual similarities to the huge hit "Memory" from Cats, but without the suicidal undertones. It was cut from the show with Belle but the melody is still heard within the orchestrations, sung by Rusty and Dustin.

Costume[edit]

Janet Williams-Addersley as Memphis Belle on Broadway, 1987

Belle's costume is red and worn looking, as referenced in the lyrics of her song. She has velvet swagged curtains for a skirt, one fishnet stocking and broken glass in her 'windows'. She has black hair in braids. Her bodice is suggestive of a Victorian-style corset, lacing up the front.

Belle's Victorian image suggests that she was one of the earliest Pullman coaches, which were originally painted mahogany red, while her references to Brighton would suggest that she was part of one of the LB&SCR Pullman trains to Brighton. That she retained her red livery would indicate she was withdrawn from service in the early 1900s.

Actresses[edit]

London[edit]

Broadway[edit]

  • Janet Williams-Adderley

Fort Lauderdale Children's Theater[edit]

  • Julia Levy