If you are a David Bowie fan, Freddie Burretti needs no introduction. He was the talent behind many of Bowie’s early costumes including the Starman outfit on Top Of The Pops and that iconic blue suit in Life On Mars video. But do you know the story of Freddie Burretti? Freddie was born in London and then grew up in Bletchley, Milton Keynes. So, it makes perfect sense that a show about his life should be premiered in Milton Keynes.
Written by Lee Scriven and directed by Caz Tricks, Burretti, The Man Who Sewed The World is a must for anyone wanting an authentic show about Freddie. I saw the first show back in 2019, but for anyone who saw that show, this show is a very different interpretation. Speaking with Lee Scriven before the show, he says ‘This is a brand-new show. It’s got original songs written especially for the show and the star of the show is Freddie rather than David Bowie. There is no Starman performance.‘
I was excited to see this new interpretation of Freddie’s life. It’s 1968 and Freddie and his parents are home. Freddie’s dad doesn’t understand him. He doesn’t think his son is normal. Freddie’s mum is more understanding. Freddie loves making his own clothes and looks stunning. Bletchley just isn’t ready for Freddie. Freddie finds some special fabric in his favourite shop run by Doris Delectable and then goes to the Wimpey to meet up with his mate, Dave. Dave is in love with a girl called Genevieve, but she is in love with Freddie. It’s a messy love triangle. Freddie gets a job working as a seamstress in a factory but feels he is destined for greater things and keeps having dreams about a Starman. Finally, Freddie makes a decision to work with his uncle in London. This is how you change your life. You make decisions that make things happen. Soon Freddie and his new best friend Sandy are VIPs at the Sombrero club where they meet Starman and Anika.
This show is a quality piece of writing with some stunning songs and a cast that are so talented I think we should be giving Simon Cowell a call to tell him Milton Keynes’ got talent! Firstly, I need to talk about Dennis French who plays Freddie Burretti. He absolutely nails the role. He takes us on Freddie’s journey of self-discovery and we fall in love with him. Dennis is a superb actor and really allows Freddie to be the star of the show. I do need to talk about Starman. We all know who he is representing. Benjamin Batchelor plays Starman and I liked both his gentle speaking voice (Bowie was rather shy back in the early 70’s) and his soulful singing voice. I think it was clever to have a black actor play Starman so there aren’t the obvious comparisons. You do not have to look or sound like David Bowie to represent what he did and how he impacted his fans. It’s a shame that many tribute acts don’t get that. Benjamin captured Bowie’s essence and that is the key to playing Starman. He was juxtaposed to Anika and her loud and demanding ways probably just how David and Angie were back in the early 70’s.
The narrator, who is playing the part of a director, comes on before every scene. I found this distracted from the flow of the story and would have preferred the show to run without that interaction, although she provided some light relief during the more dramatic scenes. There are a few scenes that I especially loved. The dancing at the Sombrero club was fantastic and had a real exciting energy about it. The girl in the factory, Stella, played by Sheniah Asiamah, who sung so beautifully that there was cheering from the audience – what a voice. What a talent! I loved both parts that Sean Calvet played – Mr Peach, an out and proud gay man and Barry Blackwood who is the embodiment of Tony Blackburn. Both roles were funny and the characters felt fully rounded and believable. Everybody knows a Mr Peach! I also loved the scene where everyone sees Starman perform for the first time…standing there in awe. The song Loving The Alien, (no not that one – this is new!), really brought home how Bowie fans feel about their mainman. Another song, White Feather is my favourite of the show. I do hope this soundtrack gets a release as I would happily pay for a CD of these songs.
There are things that only Bowie fans may pick up on. They talk about the Arnold Corns period without actually saying that and mention Haddon Hall without naming it. Sadly, the show covers Freddie’s end. Did Bowie get a call to let him know Freddie had passed away? I suppose we will never know for sure, but what I am sure of is that while Freddie was with us, his star shone brightly.
This was a special one night only event but it is being filmed so I do hope you get a chance to see it and give your own opinion. One thing is for sure, Freddie Burretti left an impact on Bowie and in turn, all of us.