Glam rock is alive and well and thriving at Joe’s Pub this week where Netherlands based entertainer Sven Ratzke is enjoying a brief residency. Well known in Berlin for his role as “Hedwig” in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Raztke now brings his often odd, but mesmerizing brand of performance to the late David Bowie with his show, Starman.
Clad in capes, winged boots, and uncontrollable hair, Ratzke opened last evening’s show with the original “Rock n Roll Sandman”, a driving tune he wrote with Rachelle Garniez:
I’m a Rock ‘n Roll Sandman blowing stardust deep into your eyes.
Stardust, as Ratzke observed, carries the same composition as humans and he spent much of the night discussing that great mystery. He continued leafing through the Bowie songbook with well-known songs that included “Rebel, Rebel”, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”, “Boys Keep Swinging”, “Heroes”, and the title song itself. With pianist and music director Charly Zastrau, bassist Danton Boller, and drummer David Berger, it’s a safe bet that Bowie himself was smiling from the cosmos above.
Ratzke is not an impersonator of the English-born singer and thankfully, he places his own stamp on the material. At times his patter is difficult to follow, but let’s be honest: Is David Bowie’s music always 100% coherent? Not necessarily, but it’s rockin’ and cool– and so is Ratzke. With his pliant facial expressions and comedic riffs on the Alice in Wonderland story, he straddles the line between a performance that finds itself somewhere between Martin Short shtick and Lou Reed sincerity. In the end, he manages to pull it off in a terrifically entertaining show that is bizarre, captivating, and fully original.
Sven Ratzke performs tonight, Tuesday May 24th at 7:30 PM, and Thursday May 26th at 9:00 PM. For tickets and more information, visit: http://www.publictheater.org/en/tickets/calendar/playdetailscollection/joes-pub/2016/s/sven-ratzke-starman/?SiteTheme=JoesPub