I feel so privileged to have seen each incarnation of the Burretti experience. First, I saw the documentary, both versions of the musical and finally the film of the musical. Now it has been changed up again. This was a live show at The Stables in Milton Keynes. It was a paired down version of the latest musical so we would be blessed to hear many of the original score songs with a few of the original cast and musicians from the musical.
I entered The Stables to the sounds of Barry Blackpool (Sean Calvert) who is more Tony Blackburn than Tony Blackburn. What a fun element to start with before the show commenced. I love it when that happens. Unexpected interactions before the main event. Of course, ‘Barry’ picked on me and got everyone in the theatre to ‘say hello to Jasmine’.
The play is outstanding. Instead of telling the story of Freddie Burretti in a traditional format, it was Freddie breaking that forth wall and talking to us about his life. The premise was he was doing it for a radio show and has just finished a manuscript of his life. He starts by talking about what Bletchley meant to him, his relationship with his dad and what it was like to live in a small town in 1969 as queer. And being queer in Bletchley wasn’t easy. People didn’t understand Freddie, including his dad. Freddie was different – special his dad said. Was it just because he preferred Come Dancing to football and Blue Nun to a stout? Whatever it was, he didn’t fit the stereotype male. Those who know the story of Freddie know that he makes that move from Bletchley to London and never looks back. He meets Angie and David Bowie in the Sombrero club after showing off his dance moves and as they say, the rest is history. David and Freddie get on well and David invites him down to Haddon Hall where he lives. Freddie and David talk for hours and with some fairly deep conversations. David likes the idea of Freddie being a pop star but that never really took off. Freddie’s talents lie in dancing and dress making. And David could use a bit of glamming up – after all, he still looks like a folk artist.
Freddie designs the costumes for Starman which David wore at that now legendary performance of Starman. This version of the show talks about Starman in lots more detail and to accompany his words there is a big screen with images in the background. The arm draped around Ronno’s shoulder changed the world for so many people. To Freddie that was just David being David but honestly, this was not the norm in 1972.
Dennis as Freddie has encompassed Freddie perfectly. It feels like we are genuinely hearing Freddie’s voice, his thoughts and his dreams; and especially his relationship with Bowie from his perspective. It’s a magical performance and in my opinion, Dennis is exceptional. It is not easy to hold the stage and the audience in the palm of your hand, listening to your every word for two hours, but Dennis is a rare talent. And the direction by Caz Tricks was fabulous. This is a fantastic show.
Not only did this play showcase the fabulous songs written especially for the musical, we were also treated to a few Bowie numbers. Sorrow, Fill Your Heart, All The Young Dudes and a singalong Jean Genie at the end of the show. What a finale!
White Feather isn’t on the programme but it’s such a wonderful and moving song I am so glad they decided to add it. I told Del Bromham after the show how much I loved the song. He said we have all lost someone haven’t we? One of the very last photos of Bowie was at the Lazarus premiere, and in rehearsals for that David is indeed wearing a top with a white feather. Del has written a heart-felt song that we can all relate to.
I hope everyone gets a chance to see any of the versions of the show, but as I said, I feel blessed to see it live.