The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust (Electric Moon)
Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre
It is often said that the simple ideas can be the best. And Electric Moon’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” is evidence of this. The show, returned to the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of the Queensland Cabaret Festival, takes audiences on a glam rock journey though performance of a masterpiece David Bowie album in its entirety.
Bowie’s 1972 concept album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (often shortened to Ziggy Stardust) is a seminal work, consistently considered one of the greatest albums of all time. Its popularity is confirmed by this show’s sold-out and additional performances, both as part of the Cabaret Festival and in its Melt Queer Arts Festival appearance earlier in the year.
The appeal is understandable. The album includes a string of hits, all of which appear in this rock ‘n; roll cabaret spectacular, performed by a stellar who’s who cast of Brisbane musicians – 20 performers including eight lead vocalists and a dynamic array of 12 musicians playing: strings, percussion, woodwind and rocking lead guitars.
The songs tell the tale of Bowie’s alter ego Ziggy Stardust, a rock star who acts as a messenger for extra-terrestrial beings. It begins with Lucinda Shaw’s ‘Five Years’ about the looming end of the world, which she builds into a chaotic crescendo. It is an epic introduction that sets up showcase for the particularly impressive female talent on show. Emma Dean is ethereal in her gentle but stirring ‘Starman’ and Alison St Ledger serves up a solid ‘It Ain’t Easy’, capturing its comparative darkness and rock sensibility.
And then there is the newcomer to the group, Maria DeVita, whose infectious, full throttle rock and roll energy is explosive in ‘Hang on to Yourself’ as she thrashes about the stage with Joan Jett punk attitude. And also of note is the Pivitol ‘Ziggy Stardust’, which introduces Daniel Hack’s extraordinary vocals, including moments when his voice mimics the compelling drama of Bowie’s unique sound.
From start to finish, “Ziggy Stardust” is a show of passion and artistry, polished to perfection. Director James Lees has taken on a formidable task, especially following Bowie’s death and the show has accordingly become about honouring the artist as much as celebrating Ziggy and along with the album. There is presentation also of other Bowie material including ‘The Jean Genie’, ‘Life on Mars’ and ‘All the Young Dudes’ amongst other hits, ending with the Allison St Ledger led ‘Heros’, one of Bowie’s most inspirational songs, delivered with emotional intensity in its haunting strings introduction and belting rock and roll finish.
Although entertaining, these later sections lack the impact of the album’s numbers, which serve as celebration of sequencing as a whole as much as discrete song selections. It would be brilliant to see a show that instead chronicles through two albums, either side of an intermission. This is but a small suggestion for what is a fabulous show of this 1970s cultivated musical statement. “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” is a sensationally good time with the legacy of one of the greatest glittery superstars, that, like any good album, can be revisited again and again without disappointment.