A decades-long adherent of glam-rock and all the moniker implies—from androgynous personae to killer, guitar driven songs that speak of love as an alluring, yet alien thing—Brooke spent years working on a rock opera version of David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars only to be told by the Thin White Duke's PR and record company not to proceed.
Not one to give up on interstellar visions, Brooke soldiered on, adapting along the way. The result is Loving the Alien, an original, live, multimedia music event that celebrates glam, evokes Bowie but instead features the story of the alien’s younger brother Iggy in a rocked out, quasi-operatic story of love and life among the humans.
Billy stopped by the Weekly Alibi offices to chat about this long-awaited project which makes its Albuquerque debut at 4pm on Sunday, Nov. 15, at the Kimo Theatre (423 Central NW). Loving the Alien has its world premier at Skylight Santa Fe Thursday, Nov. 12.
Alibi: This production comes out of an organization called the Berlin/Santa Fe Project. What's that about?
Billy: This production company was formed due to the fact that I do a lot of work in Berlin. I used to live there. Some of my best friends are still there. Over the years, I've become really close with a couple of collaborators from there, Mark Standley and Lena Wende. We co-wrote most of the music for Loving the Alien with Jessie Rodriguez. Mark and Lena are European musicians and artists, Mark is a filmmaker. They have a band in Berlin called Pleasure Dome. They're coming in for the show.
What was it like working across continents on this project?
It was a really cool experience because of today's technology. In the old days, this wouldn't have happened. But let me back up a little bit. We didn't intend to write the music for this.
What do you mean?
It started out five years ago, ironically. I wondered why there wasn't a theatrical version of Bowie's seminal record, Ziggy Stardust. It's so theatrical and the people going to shows on Broadway now are Gen Xers … it seemed natural. Green Day and the Flaming Lips are on Broadway. So I tried to write it. If it all worked out, I'd give it to Bowie's people and see if they approved of us doing it, or even if he wanted to do it. After a year we finally got in touch with his people. They sent our proposal back unopened, saying they don't accept unsolicited material. We went back and forth for a while with his business manager with whom I had a mutual friend in Santa Fe, but nothing came of it.
Necessity became the mother of invention. We had worked so hard on refining the story: a fun, scary, wacky science-fiction narrative that was complex but going to get even more complicated if we couldn't use Bowie's music. In a nutshell, Iggy is the legendary rock and roll alien’s younger brother, who has come to earth 50 years later. Iggy has come to coordinate a peaceful immigration of his people, the people of the planet Dramadonia, to earth in return for access to new technology and a cure for cancer. That's just the surface of the tale, a lot more is revealed through the narrative and the music. Iggy is jealous of his older sibling invented glam rock, after all. There's some comic relief like that throughout the piece.
So do the characters and music reflect a glam-rock aesthetic?
When you hear albums like Aladdin Sane by Bowie or Desolation Boulevard by Sweet you can imagine that they came wrapped in a candy-red cellophane package. I want people to have the same feeling after experiencing this, after hearing these songs and seeing these characters. It's meant to be bigger than life, glamorous and everything is rocked out. Some of the top rockers in the state are participating. Some of our performers were in my production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch back in 2002.
Wow, this is all starting to sound metafictive; this is a rock opera about rock, right?
The themes in this work and in Hedwig are glammy, are about rock and roll music. We love that … we're trying to keep on that same path, bringing life to a subculture that came and went through the popular consciousness relatively quickly. It's like an onion, there are several layers. To make it work in a two-hour format—given the depth of original music contained within it—has been very challenging. It would make a great film. We could delve into the themes a bit deeper if the work was a novel. As a piece of musical theater, we've succeeded by being succinct. The star of the show, Andy Primm, is the lead singer of the Santa Fe KISS cover band Love Gun. He does an awesome job of bringing Iggy from the stars to the Earth. Bella Gigante is enormously effective in the show, as is Theater Grottesco's Rod Harrison. We have a fantastic cast and band. We are all hoping that these New Mexico performances lead to shows in other cities. We want to become an on-going touring show.