Surreal Starman brings Bowie to Cabaret Season

Wearing a strikingly large black collar, black cuffs, tight blue strides and finned black knee high boots, Sven Ratzke appeared on stage like a cabaret cobra last night as his show Starman opened the Auckland Live International Cabaret Season – and what a belter it was.

He introduced himself as a falling star and to counter our disbelief that ‘in the age of Trump falling stars don’t exist’ we just had to play along and watch the one fulfilling this dream on the stage right in front of us. He’s hilarious and charismatic with a brilliant voice that more than pulls off some much-loved hits from a very missed musical legend.

Sven performed reimagined versions of Bowie classics with his live band, interspersed with surreal storytelling and audience banter. He spoke of his journeys around the world from London to New York, and of his hometown, Amsterdam, where there’s a camel,a bike and some sort of sausage throwing event? He tells us his visit to Auckland has been 20 years in the making and his explanation of his ‘fucked up combination’ of being half German and half Dutch is comically delivered.

He hilariously teases the audience with imminent embarrassment but actually only embarrasses a few with a little tease. He struts and prances around the stage and amongst the tables of nervous punters with his impish mischief of ‘anything could happen’, but I think he knows exactly what he’s doing. His ability to go from small ‘we’re all just buddies here’ chit chat to big performances is a unique talent and one that shows him to be an experienced and well thought out performer.

This is by no means a tribute show, although he can sound very much like the Thin White Duke, his individual style is very much stamped on the stage from the get go – the well-known songs are just a bonus. Vocally the highlights were Heroes and Space Oddity, where he stood basked in blue spotlights surrounded by dry ice and gave stadium sized performance in the intimate setting of the Auckland Town Hall, Concert Chamber stage.

Sven Ratzke’s Starman will take you on a fantastical journey of cabaret and the best of Bowie.

Starman will be performing Friday 15th and Sunday 17th September as part of the Auckland Live International Cabaret Season. Have a look at the full programme here.

Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar.