The titular song of David Bowie’s musical Lazarus opens with the line, “Look up here, I’m in heaven.” Released as a single just days before he died of cancer in January, the track is a reminder of Bowie’s legendary dedication to his art: he drew inspiration even from the final months of his life.
The musical, a product of this final burst of creativity, opened in New York last year to warm yet somewhat bemused reviews. An adaptation of Walter Tevis’s sci-fi novel The Man Who Fell to Earth (Bowie played the lead role in Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 film version), it tells the tale of an alien who arrives on earth hoping to take water back to his drought-stricken planet. The outlandish plot unfolds to the strains of some Bowie classics– ‘Heroes’, ‘Changes’ and ‘This Is Not America’–which are offset by some of his lesser-known, final songs.
“You’d have as much luck raising the dead as you would making heads or tails of the hyperactive and hallucinogenic David Bowie jukebox musical Lazarus,” quipped a mystified New York Daily News. “Far out? You bet. What’s it about? Who the heck knows.”
From October 25th, the fantastical show will open in a 900-seater, purpose-built theatre in Kings Cross. It is the first of Bowie’s dramatic works to open in London. He did dabble, albeit unsuccessfully, in theatrics throughout his career, writing an adaptation of Orwell’s 1984, and a musical inspired by Beat poet William S. Burroughs’s unorthodox literary techniques. Both were shelved. “When I was a teenager, I had it in my mind that I would be a creator of musicals for West End and Broadway, and people would do my songs,” said Bowie in 2000.
His last public appearance, on 7 December 2015, was at the New York premier of Lazarus.—Isobel Thompson
Sophia Anne Caruso in ‘Lazarus’
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Credit: Jan Versweyveld