Space Theatre, Fri Jun 6
There’s a lot more to Sven Ratzke’s cabaret than the music of his favourite divas. Humour, storytelling, plenty of audience engagement, and reminiscing about times when sex had class make up a rich souffle of entertainment. After ‘letting his diva out’ in song early in the show, Ratzke prances, dances, and struts around the stage while getting us to guess which movie or famous character he’s talking about, or teasing members of the audience or his technical crew.
Quirky and sometimes surreal narrations lead us into each new song and allow us to share glimpses of the personal lives of Nina Simone, Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Marlene Dietrich et al – and he isn’t afraid to portray the weaknesses of his heroines – before we hear their music. Ratzke has a wonderful sense of timing and drama in his songs. Having painted the emotional landscape with words he then overlays these landscapes with musical soul. His version of I Put A Spell On You was wonderful. As was the German-English version of Windmills Of Your Mind – maybe the best version of this song I’ve ever heard.
All this is superbly aided by Charly Zastrau on piano. If you can take your eyes off Sven for a minute take time to enjoy Charly’s physical relationship with the music he’s playing, and how he carefully watches Ratzke singing. It’s a sparkling partnership, but Charley Zastrau is a star in his own right. His instrumental breaks are a chance to go into a more reflective mode – especially so during the Judy Garland version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow – and contemplate the artistry of this genre past and present.
Charming, humorous, lewd, cheeky and stylish, this was a great way to kick of the Cabaret Festival!
by Michael Coghlan
Sven Ratzke – Diva Diva’s continues at Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, until Sun 8 Jun.
Image by Dennis Veldman