Sunday, December 15, 2019

Where Are We Now

Sven Ratzke; Photo by Hanneke Wetzer
Dutch-German performer Sven Ratzke is the best kind of David Bowie fan. When he sings his Ziggy Stardust songs, he closes his eyes, softens his face and tries to interpret the artist, not just mimic him. Ratzke's committed enough to don the skintight catsuit with the plunging v-neck and high-heeled black boots (costume design by Thierry Mugler and Armin van Zutphen). Fans of Bowie will enjoy both hits like "Heroes" and some lesser-known numbers such as "Sweet Thing/Candidate" at the U.S. premiere of Where Are We Now at La MaMa's Downstairs Theatre.

Ratzke is the cabaret version of Bowie. Pianist Christian Pabst plays beautifully, but the only rock you'll get is when he rhythmically knocks on the wood for "Let's Dance." Each song is presented after some banter where Ratzke mixes fact with fiction. Last night's show was amazing, he recounts early on, it was nine hours long with everyone rolling on the floor naked. The conversation, while often entertaining, becomes long-winded -- a wandering path of a story. 

The song list seems aimless at times, too, with no discernible order or theme. Ratzke cannily seems to pick songs that match his evocative voice, with most of the selections offering intimate versions of Bowie's softer side. Most impressive is Ratzke soulful encore of "Absolute Beginners," where he showcases Bowie's prowess as a storyteller with a nuanced, personal rendition. 

Directed by Dirk Groeneveld, the show's sparse set with bared brick walls and a simple divided curtain relies on lighting to heighten and slow the mood. This is not Ratzke's first Bowie outing, in 2016 he toured with Starman, including a run at Joe's Pub.

Through Dec. 21 at La MaMa Downstairs Theatre at 66 East 4 St. Two hours with one intermission. For more information, see or

(press seats)

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