Traveling halfway around the world to see a play may seem a bit extreme, but there was no way I was passing up the opportunity to see David Bowie’s play Lazarus. My brother was able to secure two tickets to this sold-out performance, and he took me as his guest for a Christmas gift. People were desperately trying to get their hands on tickets, even before Bowie’s death, and of course they were even more in demand this past week.
When we arrived at the small New York Theatre Workshop, we found people lined up outside in the freezing cold, hoping for no-shows so that they might get seats. There were flowers, candles, and mementos left as a make-shift memorial to David Bowie in front of the theatre. I can hardly describe the emotions I was experiencing by the time the doors opened and we settled into our third-row center seats.
One of Bowie’s final works of genius before he passed away, Lazarus is a musical inspired by the Walter Tevis novel and the David Bowie movie, The Man who Fell to Earth. It was set as a sequel that took place many years after The Man who Fell to Earth.
The show itself left me breathless. It was a brilliantly original story that incorporated live music featuring a range of songs spanning Bowie’s long career. A large screen in the center of the stage was used for special effects and visual aspects to complement every scene. The band was set up slightly behind the screen yet still visible on either side, while the actors were front and center practically within reach of our seats.
The main role of Thomas Newton was played by Michael C. Hall, who also starred in the TV show Dexter. He portrayed Newton consistently well and sang to powerful effect. In addition to Hall, there were two other actors who absolutely stood out from the rest of the cast. Michael Esper, who played Valentine, had such stage presence that it practically caused a gravitational pull towards him. He absolutely owned his darkly dramatic character. Sophia Anne Caruso played a young girl’s spirit with an air of innocence and the voice of an angel.
The show has ended in New York, but it will be going on to London for a short time. I hope it’s filmed at some point, both to preserve it as well as to open it up to a wider audience.