Starlight Express the Musical Wiki

"Tickovers" are sets of movements specific to each character. The movements express an element of the character and ensure the characters are never still onstage. The term is borrowed from technical engine terminology, where a machine is left running idle. Tickovers also result in the unique and distinctive poses for some characters.

In the show, we do what are known as "tickovers" where the engine ticks over. People say that we're always moving on the stage, even when we're not on the move so to speak, but that's us doing the engine ticking over and the "tickover" is specific to each character so we work on that. There's certainly a lot of attention to detail put into all this. - Mykal Rand, Resident Director, UK Tour[1]

The Tickovers are often caught as typical poses in photographs, but they are rarely held stationary onstage.



Rusty often pumps his arms back and fourth in a circular motion to mimic the movement of a train axle, circling the wheels as they move. When stationary he holds his arms bent at his sides in fists, occasionally circling as to not stay idle.


Greaseball does various flexing motions when attention is drawn to him. When idle he often is seen either miming combing back his hair or doing 'badboy' poses with hands on his thighs and cocked hips.


Electra moves very fluidly, a combination of static large moves and more flamboyant neutral poses. He usually has his arms up, which is also done to mimic pantographs of an electric engine, sometimes doing a wave-like motion with small jerks to mimic an electric current/shock. When not displaying flashy electric poses he does various stereotypical 'sexy and feminine' poses. He and his components share many tickover traits.


Poppa's tickover is the same as Rusty; mimicking a steam engine's pistons with the arms.



Pearl is often seen preening, polishing her costume or straightening her skirt. She evokes an innocent air by regularly looking around exaggeratedly wide-eyed and fascinated by what she sees.


Dinah's basic pose (see picture) is, like the other Coaches', is very defined with no alteration. It's even included in choreography, e.g. in Nie Genug. How she moves around it, however, can be different depending on her actress. Usually the girls don't just put their hands down to go back to the basic pose, but turn their hands in an elegant way, sometimes even performing multiple twists. Sometimes she has one arm akimbo, the other one remaining in her basic pose.

Another element she shows often is dusting off her skirt or mixing up something in a bowl (most likely soup).

Another pose is her interlocking her fingers and holding her hands close to her chest in "cute" excitement (see picture). This is altered to holding her hands in front of her belt sometimes.

Dinah always throws a kiss at the audience in the Megamix, after doing a curtsy, instead of actually bowing, like Buffy and Ashley.


Buffy often mimes carrying a tray of drinks, taking orders, serving food or drinks. Sometimes she can be seen to polish the display cabinet on her bodice.


Ashley commonly mimes smoking, lighting her cigarette, tapping ash into the ashtrays on her bodice, stamping out a cigarette butt.


Carrie tends to mime carrying and moving suitcases, as is typical for her role as a luggage van. Sometimes she can be seen inspecting the tags on each suitcase.

Belle (Bar Car)

Belle mimes holding a drink, often take them from her headpiece. She can be seen passing drinks to others from time to time, and occasionally mixes drinks as well.

Sleeping Cars

Belle the Sleeping Car was often seen yawning and stretching, along with some glamorous poses. Duvay used to mimic these same tickovers, replacing the glamour poses with adjusting the pillows on her headpiece.


Red Caboose

Caboose has many tickovers. His default stance is a back and forth sway with his legs close together, accompanied by his hands either in fists bent facing forwards (similar to Rusty's base pose), or one at his chest and one behind his back like a bellboy. He will break from this pose to bring his hand up into a salute or to fiddle with his fingers and gloves at his chest. When skating he exaggerates the salute, tipping to the side and lifting a leg along with the saluting arm.

He often jerks his head in an unnatural manner in order to appear creepy, jerking to the side quickly and then circling back to forward facing at a slow pace. Caboose never lets his arms rest neutrally, they are always above his belt giving him a more toy-like feeling, appropriate to his aesthetic.

With the 2018 updates changing Caboose's character, he acts like more like a mobster, in keeping with the new aesthetic. He can be seen rubbing his hands together as if he has a plan, rubbing his fingers together in a money gesture, as if he is rubbing bills or coins together. He also has a thinking/contemplating gesture, one arm over his chest and the other hand near his chin. His default pose is legs apart, arms straight and hands folded in front of one another.


The Rockies spent a lot of time stretching, warming up, or practicing their boxing. They can be seen sparring with each other, or even the air in front of them. A lot of the times they can also be seen spinning or breakdancing.

Hip Hoppers

The Hoppers make stereotypical "cool" and "hip" gestures, as well as breakdancing.


Dustin is a shy, anxious Hopper and is often making nervous faces. Sometimes he can be seen snacking on something he's stashed away in his pockets. He slides down the skate ramps onstage versus skating down them.


Flat-Top takes off his brick and uses it as various things, most often a phone, whether he is on a call with someone, texting, or taking a selfie. He has also been known to use it as a handheld gaming device.



Joule's a very sexy, fierce character. Her basic pose is basically touching the side of her chest wheels (see picture).

Like the other components, Joule moves abruptly. Sometimes her movements can seem a little hectic.

A very typical element of her tickovers is her turning her head over the top. So if she wants to change from looking to the right to looking at the front, she first moves over to the left, before then looking to the front, at very high speed, resulting in her wig shaking like from a small explosion or electric shock. An alternative is a simple, short head shake, which is performed by the actresses frequently. This intensifies the rushed feeling of her moves. This was added after Joule got her big wig.

She lifts up one leg in an arabesque when pulled by her race partner.


Volta is very elegant. Her basic pose varies between one hand vertically in front of her and the other one akimbo or the other one stretched away (see pictures). Depending the actress, the hand at her box is held either palm up or down.

Another pose of hers is having both of her arms and hands stretched out and held slightly behind her. Sometimes this includes a slight bend forwards. An alternation to this has her bend her arms a little, elbows to the sides (see picture). Even though Volta moves in the abrupt way the other Components do, she often does it not as harshly and more elegantly. She can usually be seen sticking her nose up with ostentation. This can be a once in a while thing or be performed very frequently.

Her trousers enhance every leg movement. Like Joule, Volta often lifts up one leg, when being pulled by her race partner. Another thing some actresses do, is a lot of leg work, changing the stopping foot every now and then or turning the leg a little out or in, which reflects the light differently.

In the past, Volta mimed fans with her hands. After her wig changed from broad fans to square ones, this pose seems to be gone.

Male Volta, a result of the 2018 revisions, can often be seen smoothing his hair to the side with attitude, voguing or otherwise moving in a way stereotypically seen as fiercely gay as this tickover style is used with Electra and/or Purse while his facial expressions still convey an air of cold arrogance a lot of the time.


Even though Wrench switches genders every now and then, her tickovers don't change much. So when played by a male, he still performs some moves that are generally associated with females. As a girl on the other hand, she has a strong, tough vibe to her. She has her hands in firsts almost all the time, such as in her basic poses (see pictures). She doesn't have the basic pose though, it depends on the preference of the actress/actor, which will be the mainly shown pose.

While using the same abrupt movements as the other Components, Wrench sometimes performs circles with her hands and arms when changing in between poses, always keeping it very controlled and precise. Most of her poses have her arms either bend 90° or stretched out straight. The possible variations are endless: arms to the sides, up, at the body, crossed, Wrench is very easy to play with, but not that easy to get right.

If the actress/actor lacks strength and thus has less control over the arm movements, which are quite demanding because they are up most of the time and have to perform the circles, Wrench can seem lacking and one can quickly tell that something is missing. Like Krupp, Wrench is a small part and it's important to make her interesting using body language.

She can be seen throwing up her legs into an upwards splits sometimes.


Purse's basic pose (see picture) can be either hands down or hands up, though it's usually hands down, as hands up resembles Krupp a lot. There also is a variation in which he shows the front of his hands, turning the palm to the back and separating all fingers. Another variation has him in his base pose, one hand up, one down. When moving on his own, like to ask out Pearl or Dinah, he usually turns his upper body up to 90°, e.g. his feet point away from the audience, but his box still face them frontal, his hands in his base pose.

Purse doesn't move harshly, using not only the abrupt style of movement the other components use, but more flowing moves as well, depending on the situation.

A very common thing for him to do is circling his hips. While the other components usually remain stiff at their hips, only bending back- and forwards, Purse moves smoothly. He sometimes places his hands at his belt when turning his hips.

Purse often stretches his arms to the side, like in his base pose, or even further. Another typical pose is holding his hands in front of his box. They're crossed over, palms up or down. These two often follow after each other.


As Krupp is Electra's armaments truck, he always carries guns. Since having a prop on hand would be rather difficult, the guns are mimed by using two fingers, such as in his basic pose (see picture). Apart from his basic pose, he has multiple typical hand movements, but most of them do contain his "guns" or having him show aggression. Even compared to the other Components, Krupp is a small part, which leaves a lot of space for the actor to develop the character with body language, so he can be very shallow, only showing only a few different poses after each other, or have more depth, interacting with and reacting to other characters.

A must are abrupt, strong moves in between poses and even for small things, such as moving his head. These are typical for all of Electra's Components, but especially important for Krupp, a rather harsh, aggressive character and bodyguard.

Another typical element are a lot of spins. This very much depends on the actor though, but Krupp has a short dance solo at the very beginning of AC/DC which contains a very long spin (about 5 complete turns), that can be later picked up again, e.g. after changing his position on the stage without being pulled.

When transitioning from moving to standing, Krupp can sometimes be seen stomping the ground once with the one foot, which by using the stopper ensures safe, still standing.


Killerwatt can be seen holding a hand to a supposed "earpiece" that he has, signaling that he is keeping up with his duties of being Electra's security guard. His movements are mechanical, yet smooth, some actors opting to imitate his predecessor, Purse, with smooth wiggling arm movements behind him as he's skating. Some play him more rigid, with crossed arms either in front of his chest or arms straight down, wrists over one another. Killerwatt also intermittently "shuts down" and "reboots," where his head initially rests normally before going kinda slack. He then reverses the motion and is back up to his normal stance once more.



In some productions, the French engine, Bobo/Coco mimes drinking wine. and usually finds someone to flirt with. However, nowadays the French stereotype of smoking is invoked in the show, so Bobo/Coco often is using Ashley's tickover.


Espresso the Italian engine is seen sometimes doing the stereotypical Italian hand gesture and sometimes kissing his hands, another stereotypical hand gesture.


In the earlier productions, Ruhrgold the German engine (originally Welschaft) has been seen screaming a fierce battle cry during his intro in Entry of the National Engines (possibly to resemble a crusader). he sometimes points up his index finger (as his personality is comparable to Albert Einstein).


Turnov the Russian engine pretends to take a shot of vodka as well as the stereotypical Russian dance move where he is squatting and interchangeably kicking his legs forward.


Hashamoto/Nintendo/Manga often mimes throwing shurikens, doing karate kicks and hand chops, or bowing.

Prince of Wales/Brexit

During his intro, the British Engine skates in backwards and often has an embarrassed smile or surprised face. As the 2018 revisions gave the nationals more stage time, he can now be seen miming sipping a cup of tea, and acting otherwise bumbling and foolish.