FMQB Retro-Active: Ken Sharp goes back in time with David Bowie's 'Hunky Dory'

FMQB Retro-Active: Ken Sharp goes back in time with David Bowie's 'Hunky Dory' (Online review)

FMQB On-Line Review

March 16, 2012

OH YOU PRETTY THING... Semi-retired since mid-2000, the towering musical legacy of David Bowie continues to exert a profound shadow over pop culture. Bowie's 1971 album, Hunky Dory, was viewed by critics as the bridge between more important fare as its predecessor, The Man Who Sold the World, and the groundbreaking The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Yet upon a closer look, Hunky Dory deserves reappraisal. In many ways, it's Bowie's most underrated album, a landmark work that celebrates his consummate skill as a songwriter.

Inside King King Theater in Hollywood on Monday, February 27, a bold experiment took place: the launching of the rock opera Hunky Dory The Album (Side 1 & Side 2). But could a rock opera with no dialogue and no discernible plot work on the stage? The answer is an unqualified "yes." Augmented by a small combo -- guitar, bass, drums, piano, keyboards and sax -- the songs came alive, rendered in an authentic manner redolent of the original album. Remarkably, the songs lent themselves perfectly to the stage. Instead of one cast member taking on the role of Bowie, that honor was shared by a multitude of cast members, both male and female, each offering their own unique interpretation of the material through singing, mime and dance. The communal sing-alongs on "Changes," "Life on Mars?" and "Oh! You Pretty Things" worked particularly well in conveying the epic grandeur of the material and were anointed with the right touch of class, reverence and camp. By the rock opera's conclusion with the inscrutable "The Bewlay Brothers," one was reminded yet again of the underlying brilliance of Bowie's work as a songsmith. It all comes down to the quality of the songs and Hunky Dory The Album (Side 1 & Side 2) succeeds splendidly in its loving celebration of this seminal work. Highly recommended.

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