A world premiere musical, celebrating the life of two great vocalists, is about to hit Melbourne. Bowie & Mercury Rising is the brain-child of renowned composer Warren Wills and honours the life of iconic legends, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, through the eyes of a London actress who searches for hope after Bowie’s death.
Melbourne based performer, Thando Sikwila, plays the actress and she is joined on stage by talented Melbourne dancer Jessica Mortlake and award-winning musical director and composer Wills.
Bowie & Mercury Rising re-imagines such classics as Heroes, Space Oddity, Life on Mars, The Show Must Go On, We are the Champions and many others. For Wills, the project was prompted by his personal reaction to Bowie’s death and his admiration for Mercury.
“I was truly taken aback by the passing of Bowie in January last year, ” says Wills. “It was during a time when a lot of great talent left the stage. I had worked with Allan Rickman, been a fan of Keith Emerson, then Maurice White from Earth, Wind and Fire. But there is no doubt the whole of Britain and much of the world was in genuine disbelief with the passing of Bowie. He was more than an artiste, he was a one man art installation. Whether music, art, passion, outrage, androgyny, he was here challenging boundaries and pushing the envelope.
His passing, coupled with the fact that I was delighted to have Mike Garson, (Bowie’s musical director of 40 years), work as my M.D. on Happy Hooker in NYC a year earlier.
It made sense to me to have Bowie coupled with the other “anthem” writer, the totally outrageous, OBE-off, Freddie Mercury, whom I never worked with, but had one degree of separation. I was MD/composer, for Peter Straker, Freddie’s boyfriend for the last 5 years of his life, and thus feel a strong bond to my core subject matter.”
The whole project has taken Wills 6 months to perfect, with Wills describing it as not a tribute show…but a “bravura, theatrical experience.”
Some of the ideas and themes the work explores are testament to the way both men had lead their lives as well as their inspirational leadership.
“Both Freddie and DB offered hope to those who were marginalised, or afraid, or felt somehow disengaged, or others who simply wanted to soar above the mundane.
We can all dream, and live our dreams, and be bold and blur stereotypes, and cross and challenge accepted norms,” says Wills
Wills has worked as a musical director and composer of West End and Broadway shows over the past 30 years with credits on more than 50 productions. He is also the Winner of the Carling London Best Musical Award. What inspires him to create is the power and magic of music.
“I’ve always seen that music transcends borders, politics, language. These strong sense of purpose with music has only been reinforced through years of work in theatre and with disenfranchised youth, and seeing that politics by its nature is adversarial, and thus divisive,” he says.
Wills’ next project is a piece called Embrace, which is a major youth initiation event he did in London in Haringey( a youth development musical theatre program for thousands of youth from diverse social, ability and ethnic backgrounds which creates new musicals and performs them worldwide) for 10 years and will now be happening in the Western Suburbs with 70 youth. And the smash hit, Genesis To Broadway, will be on in October at the Alex Theatre St.Kilda.
Bowie & Mercury Rising is a fascinating journey of narrative, music and dance gives the audience insight into the life and times of two much-loved musical icons through the eyes of Sikwila’s actress. For Wills, the show is for those who thrill to the music, art and energy of both Freddie and David Bowie…”here is an opportunity for re-invention, fantasy, joy, tears..in a bravura honouring both icons, re-imagined!”
July 26 – 30