Spotlight on Sven Ratzke: Singer/Performer Edition

In Theatre Trip’s “Spotlight On” series, we’re chatting with some of the most inspiring people in the theatre industry. And today we’re doing a special feature on Sven Ratzke – a Dutch-German performer/singer who is wrapping up his U.S. premiere of Where Are We Now, which will now be touring internationally.

Sven Ratzke has been deemed a “cabaret superstar”. He has toured around the globe to critical acclaim, won “Best Festival Show” at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe, and has even starred as Hedwig in the Dutch/German production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. 

What was it that initially drew you in to the world of music and theatre?

“As long as I can remember, I was on stage. It always felt like a very natural thing to do. It’s in your blood I assume, it’s not a choice. I grew up in a hippie environment, lived with my mom in an old former convent that was turned into a big commune where all kinds of artistic people lived. It was in the middle of the forest, the place was like a little village.

There were big parties and lots of musicians, and it was there that I created my very first own “shows” as an eight-year-old kid. Some of the grownups loved it, others found me very annoying. Haha, nothing has changed.”

“I love artists that are daring, that create unique things, that are outspoken.”

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming show Where Are We Now? Was there anything specific that inspired this tour and the music behind it?

“Yes, the show that I created in 2015, Starman, was around the 70’s period of Bowie, which was a very different show since it felt more like a wild LSD dream. And in the middle of the tour, we lost Bowie. This came as a shock to all of us, but it also changed the way that the show was received. For a lot of people it became a comfort after Bowie’s passing.

From there I created a totally different show, Homme Fatale, about the archetypes of fatal men with many original songs. But I knew I had to deal with the loss of Bowie and also the new fascination that I had of what an impact he had on me, on the world, and that he closed the circle of his life world so wonderfully with his last album Blackstar. Where Are We Now became a very personal show in many ways. It moves me, and it moves the audience as well.”

Sven Ratzke in Where Are We Now.
Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

Touring/traveling has been such a large part of your life over the last few years! Any favorite places or travel recommendations for our readers?

“In general travelling can be so inspiring, specifically when you’re on tour as an artist, because you really meet the people, and you work in their country for a while. My holy love triangle of cities is Amsterdam-Berlin-New York. These are also the cities I spend the most time in and do the most shows in. They are so very different, but they are also related to each other. Lots of Dutch elements are for example in NYC, and NYC on the other hand is so fascinating to many Europeans. But I also love Melbourne very much. It’s a very young, vibrant city, without an old history like my love triangle cities.”

How do you typically like to decompress and relax after a long week of performances?

“I have a big bath tub in Amsterdam, fits three people I would say. So that’s my mini escape. But I really feel bad if I don’t take care of myself, so I love good healthy food, I get massages, and I try to get extra sleep when I have a day off. I need all that to recharge.”

Are there any pre-show rituals that you like to do before stepping onstage?

“Yes, I give my musicians a Dextro energy tablet and take one myself just before going on stage. I spit on it behind the curtain for good luck.”

Sven Ratzke in Where Are We Now.
Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

Do you have any role models or other musicians that you look up to?

“I love artists that are daring, that create unique things, that are outspoken. I have a wide range of influences. From painters like Caravaggio or Francis Bacon to actors, writers like Stephen Fry or Connie Palmen, to singers like Marianne Faithful or Bjork, designers like Thierry Mugler or Alexander McQueen.”

Can you tell us a bit about your time playing Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch? What was it like to step into that role?

“Life changing experience for me. I did it for three years on and off in Europe. It’s a very demanding role. You really have to own it and make it your own. I became friends with the creator John Cameron Mitchell, and he gave me a lot of courage as well. It also awoke the urge in me to act more, because Hedwig is a complete transformation that requires all the aspects I have in me as an entertainer.”

What’s your favorite thing about working in the music/theatre industry?

“The people. The friends for life that you can make, and the people that you meet all over the globe who inspire you. The joy you can bring to people who see your show. And that you can sometimes inspire them as well.”

“Don’t think talent is the ticket. You need to work your ass off to get there. But getting there can also be a lot of fun. Don’t forget that.”

Speaking of theatre, very exciting that you’ll be playing Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Show next year! Will this be your first time taking on the role?

“Yes, that’s my next big project starting next year in August. I was offered the role many times by different producers. But I always wanted to be free as a performer, you know. I don’t want to be cast and just do a role. I’m a creator too.

In this show, just like with Hedwig, I’m also part of the artistic team, which makes me really happy. So I can give my input and throw my ideas on the table. And I was also able to pick the director and the cast. I think this project is gonna be a lot of fun.”

And lastly, do you have any tips for the aspiring actors and musicians out there?

“Don’t think talent is the ticket. You need to work your ass off to get there. But getting there can also be a lot of fun. Don’t forget that.”

What did you think of this interview with Sven Ratzke?

Are any of you working as or aspiring to be a performer? We’d love to hear all about what you’re up to in the comments below! In the meantime, you can check out even more of our interviews with inspiring people in the theatre industry!

Learn More:

Sven’s Instagram➝

Sven’s Website➝

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Stacy Karyn, Author of Interview with Sven Ratzke.
Author: Stacy Karyn

Stacy Karyn is the founder of Theatre Trip, author of The Thespian’s Bucket List, and creator of The Cast Album List. She holds a BA in theatre, a TESOL drama certificate, and has worked and interned with Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters.


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