Rusty the Steam Engine

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Rusty is a fictional character from the musical Starlight Express. He is the protagonist of the musical. Rusty is a steam engine, relegated to the sidings, who dreams of winning the Championship Engine of the World races. He is roundly mocked for this ambition, as steam is old fashioned, and Diesel and Electric engines now vie for supremacy. When Pearl makes her way onto the scene, he falls madly in love with her and asks if she will be his racing partner. She agrees, as long as no-one better comes along. When she turns him down for newcomer Electra, he keeps trying to get her attention. Later on, Rusty becomes disheartened and unwilling to race; but then Poppa tells him about the Starlight Express, a magical train that helps those who call on him. Originally he initially raced with Belle, and lost to Electra. Poppa then, to prove that steam engines can still race, raced in the third heat and won - nearly killing himself. He begs Rusty to take his place in the final, to win for him. Rusty calls on the Starlight Express to help him, and discovers his inner strength. In the end, he wins and Pearl soon realizes that he is the one she loves.

In later productions Rusty did not race in the heats, only the finals. Poppa raced instead of him in the second heat because he was sulking and wouldn't race without Pearl.

Character[edit]

Rusty is sweet, innocent and timid, but he is easily provoked. This is clear when Pearl rejects him and he refuses to race without her. His best friends in the world are Dustin and Flat-Top the Brick Truck, but even then he spends more of his time with Pearl. He has big ideas about who he is and who he could be. But he is heart-broken when everyone (especially Pearl) ridicules him.

Sometimes he is portrayed as a hopeless dreamer, clearly far inferior to the Electric and Diesel competitors. Other actors portray him as having the ability, but not the self-confidence to be a champion. In the original production, singing "Call Me Rusty (if you dare)", he was an angrier character, but "Engine of Love" and "Crazy" suggest a more cheerful, optimistic kid with big dreams.

Inspiration[edit]

The character for Rusty is a male Cinderella - the basis for the story. Greaseball the Diesel and Electra the electric train fulfilled the roles of the ugly sisters, while the Starlight Express was the fairy Godmother.

Melodic Themes[edit]

Rusty is almost always introduced with the lyrics 'Woo Woo! Woo Woo! Nobody can do it like a steam train!'. Rusty sings the show-stopping "Starlight Sequence" with the Starlight Express/Poppa. The melodic themes used in this number combine Rusty's iconic "Starlight Express" melody, with the "Only You" melody used in the duet between Rusty and Pearl. The "Only You" melody and lyrics speak of discovery and self-realisation. The "Starlight Express" melody is used in the overture as we enter into Control's dream world, then at the end of act 1 when Rusty is searching his soul for guidance. The melody represents mystery, questioning. The two melodies combine, Rusty, confused and questioning, the Starlight Express guiding him. Rusty and Poppa also share the "Engine of Love" melodic theme, heard in the race music when one of the steam trains takes the lead. In the show, it is Rusty's relationships that keep him going, and the 'only you' theme is used to show Rusty's motivations. He wants to win: for Pearl so she'll love him; Poppa, to make him proud; and the Starlight, who also convinces him to win for himself. Lloyd Webber is often derided as a pop composer, but his sung-through musicals often show this level of thematic story-telling within the scoring.

Choreography[edit]

Rusty moves his arms in a circular fashion to symbolise he is a Steam locomotive. This is also used by Poppa and mimicked by Pearl.

Musical numbers[edit]

Original London

Revised London

  • Call Me Rusty - shortened version with the coaches
  • Coda of Freight - Chorus, in which he takes lead solo
  • Crazy - with the coaches
  • Starlight Express - Solo
  • Starlight Sequence - with the Starlight
  • Next time you fall in love - with Pearl.

Bochum

  • Liebesexpress (Love train (Engine of love)) - with the coaches
  • Endlich kommt für mich die Zeit (Finally the time comes for me (Call Me Rusty)) - with the coaches
  • Fracht Reprise (Freight Reprise (Coda of Freight))- Chorus, in which he takes lead solo
  • Crazy - with the coaches (2002 onwards)
  • Starlight Express - Solo
  • Starlight Sequenz - with the Starlight
  • Allein im licht der Sterne (Alone in the starlight (Next time you fall in love)) (2002 onwards) or Du Allein (You alone (Only You)) (until 2002) - with Pearl.

Revised Bochum

  • Fracht Reprise (Freight Reprise (Coda of Freight))- Chorus, in which he takes lead solo
  • Crazy - with the coaches (2002 onwards)
  • Starlight Express - Solo
  • Starlight Sequenz - with the Starlight
  • Nur Mit Ihm- (Only With Him (Only He))- With Pearl
  • "Für Immer"(English equivalent: I Do. This was akin to the UK 2012 Tour, with Rusty joining in the duet halfway through. And currently the ongoing love duet in Bochum.)

UK/US tour

  • Coda of Freight - Chorus, in which he takes lead solo
  • Crazy - with the coaches
  • Starlight Express - Solo
  • Starlight Sequence - with the Starlight
  • Next time you fall in love(US and the early UK) or Only he (UK) - with Pearl.
  • "I Do"(UK 2012) - Duet with Pearl.

Japan/Australia tour

  • Engine of Love - with the coaches
  • Coda of Freight - Chorus, in which he takes lead solo
  • Starlight Express - Solo
  • Starlight Sequence - with the Starlight
  • Only you - with Pearl.

Costume[edit]

Jamie Golding, Rusty, Bochum, 2007.

Rusty in London is based on a stoker's dungarees and hat, with an open boiler on his chest and a coal tender on his back. He has pressure gauges on either side of the burner doors, and his overalls are striped under the decoration in black and brown. Originally he had a large round hat, with a chinstrap, but this was changed for a cap(with most of the brim removed so as not to cast a shadow on his face) at the 1992 revamp. He has wheels on his kneepads as well as on his thighs and wrists.

The Broadway redesign, used in all subsequent productions, saw him become red and black (orange added later on), with riveted patches rather than striped overalls. This version is a black train that has rusted, whereas originally he was rust-coloured all over. The hat came off in favour of a sweatband, and his kneepads were emblazoned with the number 0503. The dungarees became far baggier and more obvious. Railings were put around his upper arms and knitted warmers on his wrists. Interestingly, Rusty had two costumes in the Broadway production - a second one, which he wore after the Starlight Sequence, was that of himself restored- no longer rusty. The same design, but in black and silver.When he re-emerged in this costume he introduced himself as the Starlight Express, and no-one on stage recognised him as the little steam shunter they had bullied.

In the short-lived Starlight on Ice, Rusty's costume changed drastically, like all the costumes of this production. He wore striped yellow and blue overalls with a red shirt under it. He also wore a baseball hat backwards as well. On his chest is a large, metal circle. All in all, he looked a great deal like the Haribo kid

Make-Up[edit]

Rusty's make up is usually very simple - brown shadow under the eyebrows, eye-liner under the eyes, two crosses - one on each cheek (sometimes integrated with shading) - five 'rivets' round his chin and one on the end of his nose. In later productions, he was given neon orange lip gloss and glittery orange cheeks.

Names[edit]

Rusty has been through several name changes. In English speaking productions, he has always been "Rusty", but Bochum had him listed as "Rosty" for a year before he was changed back to "Rusty". In the 1997 Mexican production Expreso Astral, he was named "Ferro" to better integrate into the language.

Criticism[edit]

When first starting out, many critics claimed that there was racism within the show since Greaseball, one of Rusty's tormentors, was white, while Ray Shell, the original Rusty, was black. However, these were put to rest because the actor who played Electra was also black.

Actors[edit]