David Bowie was an inspiration and hero to a Tauranga woman who penned an original musical, which opens tonight, in his honour.

Writer Sam Martin, 45, was touched by Bowie's music and life, particularly his celebration of the individual and the unique.

The legendary rock and pop star died on Sunday aged 69, after an 18-month battle with cancer.

"David Bowie always swam upstream from society.


"His music showed people it's okay to be different and inspired us to celebrate being different," Ms Martin said.

Bowie's music was "at the heart" of Star*Man, a 16th Avenue Theatre Youth production, which opens tonight. The show is a time-travelling musical starring a young boy bullied by his peers for standing out from society, and features music from Bowie, Blondie, ELO and the Nolan Sisters.

"In essence, the show is a homage to artists like Bowie, that help you celebrate being different."

Most of the cast, aged between 12 and 22, had never heard Bowie's music, she said.

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"Now they absolutely love him and when they heard news of his death they were much more affected than I would have thought.

"They said the show is now their tribute to him.

"They will go on stage thinking of him and the meaning of his music, which is so heart-warming to see," Ms Martin said.

She said Bowie was "a raft in a sea of conformity" and he set a good example for the next generation to feel okay for being different.

The cast was rehearsing when they found out Bowie had died.

"I was gobsmacked. I had assumed he was always going to be there."

Ms Martin has been a Bowie fan since she was 8 years old, and still remembers buying her first Bowie album, Scary Monsters.

Bullied from a young age, Bowie helped her get through.

"I used to sit and listen to David Bowie saying 'you'll be fine' on my old suitcase-style record player.

"He really helped me, so his music is close to my heart," Ms Martin said.