By Joseph Myers, Staff Writer
Imagine depicting not one but two iconic queer legends. This is the reality for Sven Ratzke, the German singer and actor known for his cabaret performances. He was most recently seen performing in the title role of Hedwig in John Cameron Mitchell’s rock musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” and now Ratzke is touring the globe with his new original cabaret show, “Starman,” depicting the legendary David Bowie.
Sven Ratzke beautifully channeled quirk and charisma to portray his interpretation of Bowie, giving his own spin to the rock-icon. Not unlike Hedwig, in “Starman,” Ratzke uses humor and playfulness to tell stories and chat with the audience in character. He picked on a lucky few, such as a man named Stefan, throughout the show, creating impromptu running gags. Although Ratzke was quick on his feet with the banter, his humor sometimes landed and sometimes didn’t. Perhaps it was humor that would have translated better for a European audience. His high energy and wacky performances were impressive, but didn’t prevent several of the jokes from being lost. Regardless, he fully committed to everything that he did, which is commendable.
Ratzke performed beloved Bowie favorites like “Starman” and “Life on Mars,” as well as songs that one hears less often such as “Lady Grinning Soul.” Ratzke both embodied the spirit of Bowie and also brought his own soulful take to the music–he sang each song with a melange of joy, pain and emotion, which paired beautifully with his powerful rock-musical voice.
While some of Ratzke’s humor may have flopped, he still shone in his embodiment of the Starman. Adorned in elaborately out-of-this-Universe Bowie costumes, Ratzke combines the perfect amount of wit, camp and heart to create an enjoyable and engaging performance. The impromptu audience interaction created a fun, interactive environment that was made unique to each performance and will never quite be the same for other audiences. His humor and zaniness made for a vibrant, and at times, shocking night for all.
Although “Starman” has already ended its limited tree-night run at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, you can still get a taste for Ratzke’s panache in the recorded version of “Starman,” which shares the same title.