David Bowie was an icon on so many levels from his music to his impact on society! Everyone has a story as to what David Bowie meant to them. Sven Ratzke, transgressive European Entertainer Extraordinaire, is no exception to people who have been inspired by David Bowie. In fact, Sven is presenting the New York premiere of his internationally acclaimed show Starman at Joe's Pub from May 23-26! Click here for tickets!
Inspired by the iconic musician and songwriter David Bowie, the program combines many of the artist’s famous numbers such as "Space Oddity," "Rebel Rebel," "Heroes," and "Rock and Roll Suicide" with album deep cuts and inspired original songs by Sven and Rachelle Garniez. More than a mere tribute show, Starman is a one-man rock musical with unique characters and bold reinventions of glam rock classics!
1. By the time your new one-man show Starman hits Joe’s Pub, you will have already performed it in 30 cities worldwide. What has it been like to perform this show? How has the show evolved over this tour so far? It's a triumph! It's so great to see that we've found a great balance with this show to make people laugh, cry, dance and just think and listen. The show makes me very happy because it makes other people happy. We've put so much hard work into it and it's payed off. And it’s evolved also. In the beginning, for example, I was wearing a wig because I wanted to transform into this character, but as we went further I became more and more myself in this show. So the wig is gone!
2. What was it about David Bowie and his music that influenced your own style so much? Bowie was always present but I was never a mega fan. I was intrigued and I admired him. But as I did all this research on him I discovered a new Bowie: he's a theatre maker. His whole life is like an opera. He was always in charge. I mean, look at his almost-staged death, the last album and all these clips. It's so amazing that somebody had his total artistic control.
3. What excites you about bringing this show to New York? How do you feel New York audiences will react to it over other audiences you’ve played for? The show will be different because in Europe we play in big venues with my own band and there is a light show. Now we have the intimacy of Joe’s Pub. You can only perform on a stage like that when you know your shit, and especially in New York City. You better kill it. But since the first time I was on a stage in New York, the audience gave me so much love and understanding. They just know what I'm talking about and what I'm doing. I have to come to New York at least twice a year to perform because it gives me a lot of inspiration.
4. If you had the chance to perform this show for David Bowie, how do you think he would have liked the show? Which song would you have wanted "Starman" and David Bowie to collaborate on? I think he would have loved the show. He got the CD just a month before he died. But I know a lot of people who knew him and they told me also that he would have loved the show because it's not a tribute show. I’m not just singing his songs, it’s almost a re-invention that utilizes fiction and fantasy. His name is not even mentioned, but his soul is there and his great songwriting is the basis of this show.
I never ever thought an actual collaboration with Bowie. That’s not what this is about for me: this show is meant to bring his music to life. I also think that he would have laughed a lot at our show. Bowie had a great sense of humor and he would have loved all the bizarre and wicked thoughts in this show.
5. Which songs do you think he would have wished you put in the show that you did not? Mmmh, I think he just would be happy. Maybe he would have said: "I have a song that I never used, it's in my safe. I'm gonna give it to you." But I'm just dreaming now.
6. How is Starman similar and different from David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust? I take you on a trip…a journey where fantasy and my life mingle with the magic of Bowie. The journey is told through his songs from the seventies, from London, NYC and finally Berlin. It's sometimes really funny and sometimes the songs themselves can move you to tears. And we meet characters like Andy Warhol, who is a white rabbit, and Liz Taylor, who's a wax figure of a child star. We start in the stinking streets of London and end up in a drag club in Berlin, so it's quit a fun night. And filled with rock 'n' roll of course.
7. You are internationally recognized for starring in the first-ever Berlin production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. What was it like to premiere this show in Berlin? How did you make the role your own, after so many other actors have performed that role in other productions around the world? First off all, to get the blessing of the creator John Cameron Mitchell helped a lot. But I'm also a bit torn like "Hedwig" because I'm am both an entertainer and half from Berlin. It's the strangest and hardest show I’ve ever done. People are so in love with it. But it's also hard to explain what the show is to people that never heard of Hedwig. As "Hedwig" you have to win them over, you have to be authentic - you have to BE "Hedwig!" We are bringing the show back to Berlin this fall, but also to Hamburg for the first time. That's really exciting.
8. What was it like when John Cameron Mitchell declared you were the best "Hedwig" he had ever seen? How does something like that influence future performances? Oh it made me so happy because I know it's John’s baby. And he was so amazing. You can't top that. It's makes me so incredibly proud that he's so fond of it.
9. Besides David Bowie, who were some of your other influences that made you want to be a performer? Well I've already worked with some amazing people and it's always; just watch and learn like Nina Hagen. She's crazy, but she's amazing. I work with so many different people like classical and jazz musicians. With New York City legends Joey Arias and Justin Vivian Bond. They are such beauties! And The Tiger Lillies – they’re so great! I really love my job and I am looking forward to meeting more people. I hope I get to meet Liza soon.
Sven Ratzke crosses musical genres and traverses decades with panache and a unique style that blends high culture with elements of glam rock, classic Weimar cabaret with vaudeville. The Netherlands-based entertainer tours the world’s biggest theaters, festivals and nightclubs from sold-out shows at Lincoln Center in New York and the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam to the famous Berliner Ensemble in Berlin. He has released five albums and has worked with legends of the European arts world such as Nina Hagen, Hanna Schygulla, and The Tiger Lilies. Sven is internationally-recognized for the title role in the first-ever Berlin production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. John Cameron Mitchell, the musical’s creator and the original star, declared "Sven is the best "Hedwig" I’ve ever seen." After its smash run in Berlin at the Admiralspalast, Sven brought the show to Utrecht and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Basel and Vienna. Ratzke’s Hedwig returns to Berlin in October and travels to Hamburg in November.