When David Bowie passed away earlier this year, the world was in mourning… and in shock. Millions of fans around the globe were paying homage to a man coveted as a musical genius of our generation. It seemed the world was intent on honouring Bowie for his enormous musical contribution over the past 40 odd years. Kendall-Jane Rundle, Director of CHANGES: A Theatrical Tribute to the Music of David Bowie wanted to pay tribute to him as well but with a point of difference. “He was a bit of a pioneer in the area of music videos,” she explains. “There’s a lot of cover bands playing his songs and dressing up like him and I thought, what better way to tribute him than to take his work and put it to theatre so it’s more like music videos on stage. They are not necessarily connected. There’s a little bit of a through line but it can be interpreted in more than one way. It was like tributing to the theatricality, the characters and just the visual side of his work instead of just the music and the voice.”
Kendall conceptualised the show together with Musical Director, Jeff Wortman and, as she points out, it is not a ‘David Bowie musical’. “There is no script,” she explains. “We’re not copying any of his videos. It’s my own staging; it’s done theatrically but we’re not trying to put any of his videos on stage. It’s an original interpretation.”
Musically, the show features local Melbourne rock band, Robot Child with lead vocalist Jeff Wortman, lead guitarist Waleed Aly, Daniel Lijnders on bass, Dan Slater on drums, Owen James on keyboards and guitar and special guest musician Matthew Arter on guitar and sax.
“And then we have six other cast members who are actors and dancers. We try to stay true to his style. He made some videos that were very simple, some videos that told a story and others that were quite abstract and open to multiple interpretations so I try to recreate a number of different scenes that touch on all of that. Some are very simple and basic; others are very complex and very abstract and layered. We’ve spent a lot of time watching old footage of interviews with Bowie himself and so, in the scenes and in the story, there’s a lot of reference to him and his life more than to his characters. It’s more about his struggle. He had a lot of ups and downs and ten year hiatuses and a lot of self-loathing and picking himself up again and moving forward and that artistic struggle so it’s like a through line theme that we have happening.”
The production includes songs from every era of Bowie’s musical catalogue. “We’re using as many of the hits as possible,” she tells me. However, there were some songs that she would have liked to use but couldn’t due to copyright restrictions. That said, Bowie’s catalogue is so vast that there was certainly no shortage of material to fill the entire program.
Kendall has previously worked on theatrical productions like this in Montreal, with other artists but says this is the first time that she has done it with a single artist. “I’ve done it before with an era or style but this is the first time I have done a production like this with a single person’s body of work. It’s exciting and a lot of fun. It’s simple. We try to be as classy and honouring of the man as possible and we’ve had a great audience response. There were people crying in the audience and some very emotional moments.”
As you could probably imagine, the show is attracting some massive Bowie fans. “There’s a bit of a pilgrimage going on so that’s pretty cool.”
Changes: A Theatrical Tribute to the Music of David Bowie plays at the Gasworks Arts Park in Albert Park in Melbourne, with evening performances Wednesday through Saturday and a matinee performance on Saturday afternoon. See below for details and how to book.
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2016. All rights reserved
VENUE: Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St., Albert Park VIC
DATES: Wed 27 July – Sat 6 August 2016
TIMES: Wed- Fri @ 8.30pm, Sat @1.30pm & 8.30pm
TICKETS: Adult $45/ Conc $40 / Student $34.50 / Group 10+ $40
BOOK: http://www.gasworks.org.au / Ph: (03) 8606 4200