by MK Scott
Café Nordo presents the world premiere of ‘Alien/Angel.’ Writer/performer Devin Bannon and director Keira McDonald bring to life historical TV interviews of the actual Klaus Sperber, while reimagining the musical acts of his rock alter ego Nomi in nine soaring numbers.
In between the songs, Bannon-as-Klaus tells a moving narrative of his life as a young, queer German gifted with a soprano vocal range, who moved to Manhattan in the 1980’s with a generation of youth inspired by Warhol’s Factory. Klaus Nomi did the impossible: struck NYC speechless with his latex costumes, clown makeup and angelic voice. Now, on his comeback tour from outer space, Klaus tells the tale of his brush with fame and all-too-young death as one of the first celebrity victims of the AIDS epidemic.
Known as the weirdo’s weirdo, starving artist Klaus was famous for trading his homemade pastries in exchange for studio time and rehearsal space to create music that became inspiration for artists like David Bowie and Joey Arias. Award-winning Chef Erin Brindley will craft a four-course menu of pies, savory and sweet, that is included in the ticket price.
I had a chance to reach out to Bannon via email:
MK Scott: Devin, so excited about your new show ‘Alien/Angel.’ Tell us more about the show?
Devin Bannon: This show is a love letter to Klaus Nomi, a theatrical journey through his life and career, accompanied by actors recounting television interviews with the artist, as well as fierce backup dancers and an ultra-talented live band, following Klaus through his childhood in Germany, his career as an underground star of the New Wave music scene in the US, and his all-too-soon death of HIV in 1983. And because Klaus was a master baker, we serve a 4-course menu of delectable pies!
MK: The show is described as half Maria Callas and half Elvis Presley plus 100% Extra-Terrestrial. What got you interested in playing this role?
Bannon: I keep finding more and more Klaus Nomi fans in my own circle, ever since I started working on this project. It’s amazing to see how many fans are out there, seeing as he’s largely unknown about by most of pop culture, and thought of as pretty ‘cult’ or ‘niche’ among lovers of the music of the era.
MK: Now Klaus was a very influential performance artist, and the True Love of my pal Joey Arias. Do you go into detail about that relationship as well as his collaborations with David Bowie?
Bannon: Of course. David Bowie plays a pivotal part in Klaus Nomi’s story, so yes, we do hit the big ‘SNL’ moment. And Joey Arias was actually the one who gave me the blessing to do this project. So yes, he gets a special shout-out, too.
MK: I read this is actually kind of like a coming home for you. Didn’t you do a show with Cafe Nordo when it opened 10 years ago?
Bannon: ‘Alien/Angel’ will be my tenth mainstage production as a performer with Cafe Nordo. And yes – I was a member of the cast in their very first show in Fall 2009, ‘The Modern American Chicken.’ It’s a joy to have walked so many different stages now with this team, now in their spectacular home in Pioneer Square. And it’s an honor to be invited back to work with Nordo every time. I’m endlessly grateful to Nordo for continuing to believe in me and providing me this beautiful opportunity. They are fantastic artists and producers and any performer in the city would be lucky to work with them.
MK: I had also noticed that you have been roaming around town dressed up as Klaus, did that help with your characterization?
Bannon: Haha. Yes, it did! For our promo photo shoot for the show’s poster, we dressed me up in Klaus Nomi’s famous oversized ‘tuxedo’ outfit and twirled through the Capitol Hill light rail station in full costume and makeup. It was a blast. We chose that location because we loved the mix of bright lights with geometric architecture evocative of the same Bauhaus-inspired shapes throughout Klaus’ aesthetic. The bonus was getting to see people’s reactions of delight, and many more people recognized me than I’d expected. That definitely helped!
MK: And finally what is the most challenging element performing in dinner theater?
Bannon: It’s all challenging, but it’s all worth it! Putting on a full theatrical production is already a huge feat. Combining a theatre with a restaurant takes everything to the next level. Timing, staffing, accommodating the audience – it all needs to be stitched together perfectly. Of course, that sometimes means interesting challenges a performer would never experience at another theatre (i.e., the quantity of stain remover needed), but the extra culinary element brings the audience into a full immersion of the senses, allowing us to tell stories in new ways while giving our guests a uniquely delicious fantasy. But let’s be clear: this isn’t your grandparents’ ‘dinner theatre’. The fresh and wonder-inducing experience Cafe Nordo serves its audiences can’t be found anywhere else.
Cafe Nordo’s ‘Alien/Angel’ continues Wed-Sat @ 7:30pm; Sun @ 6pm thru February 24 at Nordo’s Culinarium, 109 S. Main St., Seattle’s Pioneer Square. Tickets: $59 Wed; $79 Thurs-Sun. Online Sales: www.cafenordo.com.