Belle's Domain

Artwork, Bochum 1994 Poppa the Old Steamer

Poppa is the wise old steam engine, who's too old to work anymore, so spends his time hanging out in the freight yard, singing the blues... It is Poppa who encourages Rusty to race, and then races himself to secure a place for Steam. But the effort of racing, especially partnered by Dustin, is too much for the old engine, and he collapses, unable to continue. Rusty must take his place...

In the original production, Poppa had his own coach, Belle, who raced with Rusty in Heat two. When Poppa came to race in Heat three, Belle had already been disqualified by losing with Rusty, so he raced with Dustin instead. In later productions, the other freight refuse outright to race with Poppa, except enthusiastic Dustin...

There are several theories about Poppa and his relations. The obvious assumption is that Poppa is Rusty's "father", as they are both Steam Trains. I, however, think it more logical that Poppa is "father" to Pearl - And he doesn't like the boyfriends the young hussy is getting, so encourages the sweet and good-natured Rusty to win the race, and her Heart.

Is Poppa the Starlight Express? Does he pretend to be the Starlight Express, to change Rusty's mind? Or is the Starlight Express a completely separate entity, portrayed onstage by the same actor? We asked Trevor Michael Georges, playing Poppa in london at the time, and his answer was "It's whatever you think it is". Profound.

There have not been many actors capable of playing Poppa over the years, and once an actor joins the show, he's likely to play the role multiple times, across different productions. The role demands a spectacular, deep, rich singing voice, maturity and gravitas, combined with the athleticism to skate and race. While compared with other roles in the show, Poppa skates relatively little, it's still not an easy role to play. Often an alternate Poppa is also cast, who had a set number of shows a week in the lead role, plus understudying when required.

There have been occasions when, due to illness and injury, there simply has not been an actor to play Poppa. In emergencies like this, in london, a few phonecalls resulted in an ex-cast member coming back for one night only. On another occasion, the actor playing Poppa was taken ill just before the end of the show. He had been fine right through to singing the Starlight Sequence, then, five minutes before Poppa's final entry, he could not continue. His understudy, having been watching the show, had already left the theatre to get a drink at the bar before the rush, and was called back to go on. He had less than 5 minutes to get into full costume, skates, and onstage for Poppa's Entrance "Where's Rusty Gone?" after the final race. As he skated on he was still pulling on his second glove, but it was simply an amazing feat to get onstage so fast!

Poppa may not be the most glamourous or sexy of the StEx characters, but he is the essential core of the plot and the music.


Trevor Michael Georges, 1988 Bochum
Lon Satton and Sam Lane, London 1991 Ritchie Pitts, Japan/Australia Tour 1987 Ritchie Pitts, Japan Tour 1990

Jimmy Lockett, Las Vegas 1993

Stevie Woods, Bochum 1990
Stevie Woods, Bochum 1993

Anton Stephans Michael Samuels Michael Samuels Lothair Eaton, New Zealand Tour, 2009


BACKSTAGE Poppa
Mykal Rand, u/s Graham Martin, u/s Jason Capewell, u/s
Trevor Michael-Georges Graham Martin, u/s Rob Grose, u/s
Trevor Michael-Georges Lothair Eaton, Bochum
Lothair Eaton, Open Day Bochum 2001 Lothair Eaton, Open Day Bochum 2001 Lothair Eaton, Open Day Bochum 2002
Lothair Eaton, Open Day Bochum 2002 Lothair Eaton, Open Day Bochum 2002 Lothair Eaton, Fan Day, Bochum 2003

ONSTAGE Poppa
London
Lon Satton, london 1984 Lon Satton, london 1984 Lon Satton, london 1984
Lon Satton, london 1984 Lon Satton, london 1984 Lon Satton, london 1984
Lon Satton, london 1980s Lon Satton, london 1980s Lon Satton, london 1980s
Lon Satton, london 1992 Lon Satton, london 1992 Lon Satton, london 1992
Lon Satton, london 1992 Lon Satton, london 1994 Lon Satton, london 1994
Lon Satton, london 1995 Lon Satton, london 1996 Lon Satton, london 1996
Ray Shell, london 1997 Ray Shell, london 1997 Ray Shell, london 1997
Maurey Richards, london 1997 Trevor Michael-Georges, london 1998 Trevor Michael-Georges, london 1998
Trevor Michael-Georges, london 1999 Trevor Michael-Georges, london 2000 Trevor Michael-Georges, london 2001

Japan/Australia Tours
Ritchie Pitts, Japan/Australia Tour 1987 Ritchie Pitts, Japan/Australia Tour 1987 Ritchie Pitts, Japan/Australia Tour 1987
Ritchie Pitts, Japan/Australia Tour 1987 Ritchie Pitts, Japan/Australia Tour 1987 Ritchie Pitts, Japan Tour 1990
Ritchie Pitts, Japan Tour 1990 Ritchie Pitts, Japan Tour 1990

US Productions
Steve Fowler, Broadway 1987 Steve Fowler, Broadway 1987 Steve Fowler, Broadway 1987
Jimmy Lockett, US tour 1989 Jimmy Lockett, US tour 1989 Jimmy Lockett, US tour 1989
Jimmy Lockett, Las Vegas 1993 Jimmy Lockett, Las Vegas 1993 Jimmy Lockett, Las Vegas 1993
Dennis LeGree, US tour 2003
UK Tour
Anton Stephans, UK tour 04/05 Anton Stephans, UK tour 04/05 Anton Stephans, UK tour 04/05
Anton Stephans, UK tour 04/05 Michael Samuels, UK Tour, 2006 Michael Samuels, UK Tour, 2006
Michael Samuels, UK Tour, 2007 Michael Samuels, UK Tour, 2007
NZ T0ur
Lothair Eaton, New Zealand Tour, 2009

Bochum, Germany
Trevor Michael Georges, Bochum 1988 Trevor Michael Georges, Bochum 1988 Stevie Woods, Bochum 1989
Stevie Woods, Bochum 1991 Stevie Woods, Bochum 1991 Lothair Eaton, Bochum 1994
Lothair Eaton, Bochum 1994 Dennis LeGree, Bochum 1997 Dennis LeGree, Bochum 1997
Dennis LeGree, Bochum 1997 Dennis LeGree, Bochum 1997 Dennis LeGree, Bochum 1997
Dennis LeGree, Bochum 1997 David Moore, Bochum 1998 David Moore, Bochum 1998
Lothair Eaton, Bochum 2001 Lothair Eaton, Bochum 2002 Lothair Eaton, Bochum 2002
Lothair Eaton, Bochum 2004 Lothair Eaton, Bochum 2004 Lothair Eaton, Bochum 2005
Lothair Eaton, Bochum 2005 Lothair Eaton, Bochum 2006 Lothair Eaton, Bochum 2006
Lothair Eaton, Bochum Carl Ellis, Bochum 2008 Carl Ellis, Bochum 2008

FANS of Poppa
Fan-Poppa, Open Day Bochum 2001 Fan-Poppa, Open Day Bochum 2002

Design for Broadway, 1986
Design for London, 1984

Stevie Woods, Bochum 1990 Stevie Woods, Bochum 1993