Published on theMusic.com.au, Jan 2016
As the world mourns a creative genius, an important piece of history is playing out its final days in New York.
The front of Manhattan’s New York Theatre Workshop in the city’s south doesn’t look like much, but the shows that consume the iconic performance space go above and beyond their Broadway counterparts.
It’s where David Bowie chose to host one of his final masterpieces, Lazarus, starring cult hero Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under) as Thomas Jerome Newton.
The tiny theatre holds only around 200 people, and as those lucky enough to score tickets (the entire run sold out within hours) quietly shuffled to their seats with lead Hall lying motionless on the stage, the band set up in the background, visible through thick glass, preparing to play some Bowie hits and other reworked classics.
Based on 1967 British sci-fi The Man Who Fell To Earth — in which Bowie plays the character of Newton — Lazarus follows an immortal man not of this world, struggling with alcoholism and depression as he outlives everyone he knows.
With an incredible voice, 16-year-old Sophia Anne Caruso dominated as Newton’s conscience, and a convincing Cristin Milioti, who you might know as the mother from How I Met Your Mother, played his stalker/love interest.
Hall spent almost every minute on stage, with various other characters and scenes surrounding him, toeing the line between humour, rage and heartache beautifully, and becoming a spitting image of Bowie when it came time to sing the hits. Funnily enough, it ended with Hall stabbing someone to death.
The two-hour performance grappled at what makes us human, with its heartbreaking take on love, loss, obsession and death.
It has something for everyone, as those not convinced by its structure or format will either be won over by the Bowie songs performed throughout — including new single Lazarus — or seeing Michael C. Hall in the flesh, who is fast becoming a veteran of theatre, having already dominated Hedwig And The Angry Inch and The Realistic Joneses in recent years.
The stage door sits alongside the venue’s entrance and within minutes of changing out of his milk-drenched stage clothes (things get weird in the thick of Lazarus), an affable Hall mingles with a handful of punters in an intimate setting. This won’t be his last theatre stint, and for David Bowie, it did more than prove he was producing his best work until the end.