Two contrasting elements combine to make Rebel into a spectacular show ideally suited to the vast tent that is Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows. The obvious one is the music of David Bowie; the other is the varied programme of circus, acrobatic and aerial performances, by an international team from Australia, New Zealand and the USA.
Reeve emulates the distinctive and essential timbre that makes for a convincing Bowie tribute
It’s an understated opening of a solo guitarist that heralds the entrance of multi-award-winner Stewart Reeve, the latter-day Aussie incarnation of the great singer himself. He opens with Suffragette City, the first in a selection of the artist’s most famous songs. Before the music can sink in, however, the stunning A-line frock coat with its tight bodice and dazzling golden lines set against black reminds us of the importance of glam and image in the man’s appearance. The costume fits perfectly and the fullness of the split skirt is shown in myriad swirls and turns. The visual is simultaneously enhanced by the vocal. Reeve emulates the distinctive and essential timbre that makes for a convincing Bowie tribute. However, as Artistic Director Elena Kirschbaum of Highwire Entertainment points out, “... with its glamour, fantasy and spectacle, Rebel aims to be more than a tribute, but to capture the aesthetic and the spirit of a performer who captivated the world across five decades”.
The show is inspired by Bowie’s own words, “I want to tart rock up. I don't want to climb out of my fantasies in order to go up on stage - I want to take them on stage with me”. This show does precisely that. A display of the talents and abilities of the cast is demonstrated as the band of lead guitarist, saxophonist, drummer and keyboard player becomes the troupe that performs a range of acrobatic and aerial feats. Each display has its own song, including Space Oddity and Lazarus. A pole act is followed by hoop-spinning and a woman who ties herself in knots ascending the length of lilac material that’s just dropped from the ceiling. Together they juggle and one of them contorts herself through the legs and back of a chair. And that’s just a few of the spectacles.
Meanwhile, Reeve works his way through the repertoire. There is joy and relief as the most famous songs are rolled out and we revel in Bowie’s dissection of words: fa fa fa fa fashion followed shortly by Ch-ch-changes. Let’s Dance features in the second half of the show enhanced by a costume change to a powder blue suit with a red lapel trim and - you guessed - bright red platform shoes that glisten in the lights.
Reeve revels in it all and is endearing throughout, becoming everyone's hero, perhaps for more than a day.