Thursday 29 September 2016

Audience left in tears as Bowie show becomes a memorial

Mark Kennedy

Published 14/01/2016 | 07:00

Sophia Anne Caruso and Michael C Hall perform in a scene from David Bowie and Enda Walsh’s ‘Lazarus’ at the New York Theatre Workshop in New York. Photo: Jan Versweyveld/Matt Ross Public Relation
Sophia Anne Caruso and Michael C Hall perform in a scene from David Bowie and Enda Walsh’s ‘Lazarus’ at the New York Theatre Workshop in New York. Photo: Jan Versweyveld/Matt Ross Public Relation
Enda Walsh. Photo: Andrew Downes
David Bowie. Photo: Getty

A performance of David Bowie's trippy, melancholic musical 'Lazarus' in New York turned into a memorial for Thin White Duke fans who had bought tickets to celebrate his music but found themselves mourning his passing instead.

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"It was incredible. I wept a lot," said Evan Schwartz, a 20-year-old student from Connecticut who saw the show - written by Bowie with Irish playwright Enda Walsh - for a second time after winning a ticket in an online lottery. "It was beautiful."

Tuesday night's performance was the first time since Bowie's death that the show went on at the 200-seat New York Theatre Workshop in East Village. Some audience members left in tears.

Cast members did not acknowledge the death or make any changes to the show. They also declined to comment. The only official nod to Bowie's death was a video screen in the lobby showing a photo of the musician with the words "In Memoriam, 1947-2016". Fans left flowers near the entrance.

Starring 'Dexter' and 'Six Feet Under' actor Michael C Hall, the musical has been a hit since previews began in November. Bowie's death only made tickets more desired, with a single matinee seat going on Tuesday for $1,900 (€1,750) on StubHub.

Bowie wrote the musical with Walsh as a sequel to the 1963 novel 'The Man Who Fell to Earth' by Walter Tevis, which inspired the 1976 film of the same name that he starred in. The musical is directed by Belgian avant-garde director Ivo Van Hove.

Bowie was clearly the draw for Roberta Bethencourt, a New Jersey resident who has been a fan since she was 12 years old. "I used to go to the library and when other kids were getting books I was getting 'Space Oddity' and bringing it home and playing over and over again," she said.

"I had no idea what an impact he had on so many people. I loved him because he was so different and unique."

The 18 songs in the musical include some of Bowie's biggest hits, among them 'Changes', 'Heroes', 'Absolute Beginners' and 'Life on Mars', as well as new songs such as 'Lazarus', taken from his latest 'Blackstar' album.

The opaque story centres on millionaire alien Thomas Jerome Newton, who Bowie portrayed in the film.

Newton, played now by Hall, has imprisoned himself in his own apartment, drinking gin, being tormented by his past and watching TV. He cannot leave - or die.

As his new assistant gets sucked deeper into his world, Newton is visited by an ethereal girl who creates a rocket ship out of masking tape to take him home, and he's harassed by an enigmatic, black-clad figure.

The story has a recurring theme of creatures caught between worlds and the exhaustion that comes with daily survival. "I'm done with this living," a character cries out at one point, in a line that had more depth after Bowie's death.

Irish Independent

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