Audience members for the upcoming New York Theater Workshop production of Lazarus probably won’t see rock icon David Bowie lurking around the stage, but his influence is all over the show. Bowie co-wrote Lazarus with Enda Walsh and its soundtrack is a mix of old and new Bowie songs.
As the New York Times reported Tuesday, very little is known about Lazarus except that it follows the character of Thomas Newton, the protagonist of the Walter Tevis novel The Man Who Fell to Earth, the 1976 movie version of which starred Bowie. Dexter star Michael C. Hall plays the character in Lazarus, and he’s joined by noted stage actors Cristin Milioti and Michael Esper.
Walsh spoke with the Times but, like director van Hove, could reveal little about the plot other than it was seemingly dark and splintered. He said the audience will have to demonstrate some patience before understanding fully what’s happening on stage.
“The piece is broken and fractured; the information comes late. You don’t know what you’re watching for about 40 minutes or so.”
The ending, he said, is “sad and shocking.”
Walsh built a story using Bowie’s newly written music and once a first draft was complete, they contacted van Hove about possibly directing. Van Hove at first thought the new project was a prank but eventually responded to the inquiry.
Van Hove, as it turned out, had seen Bowie in his first Broadway outing more than three decades ago. Bowie starred as John Merrick in a stage production of The Elephant Man, and van Hove caught the show with his partner.
A promotional poster for Bowie’s turn in The Elephant Man gushed rave reviews, as the musician’s official site recalled in September 2013.
The main actors in Lazarus are tasked not only with bringing the characters to life, but also singing some of Bowie’s original music. Hall said their initial nerves were eased after they came face-to-face with Bowie and saw his interest in the project.
“He’s very generous. He has a childlike enthusiasm about it.”
Milioti, likewise, had kind words for Bowie.
“He’s really lovely. He seems really jazzed.”
Audiences will get their first glimpse of Lazarus on November 18 when performances start. The play’s official opening is December 7 and is now scheduled to run through January 17. Tickets sold quickly, more rapidly than for any other show in the history of New York Theater Workshop.
The stage show debuts as David Bowie fans are expecting another album of new music. Bowie’s new song “Blackstar” provides the backdrop for the credits of the new Sky Atlantic series The Last Panthers. An extended clip of the song was released earlier this week, as Rolling Stone reported. It had been earlier confirmed that Bowie’s new album would be released on January 8, 2016, his 69th birthday.
Bowie’s official site announced that the “Blackstar” single would be released on November 20, 2015, and was not part of the Lazarus project.
The stage actors seemed intrigued by the subject matter of Lazarus, with Milioti saying she found a certain freedom in her character’s actions.
“There’s something liberating about it. There are certain things I get to do in this show that I’ve always wanted to do in my life. Like wrecking things. It sort of gives me permission to do that.”
[Main photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images Entertainment]