Lazarus

Theatre, Musicals
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(19user reviews)

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

The late David Bowie's maddening and beautiful musical sequel to 'The Man Who Fell to Earth'

A wealthy recluse, dying but somehow not dead, sits atop his New York tower, hallucinating his past and the music of David Bowie.

If it was difficult to see where Thomas Jerome Newton, the stranded alien protagonist of the 1976 film ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ ended, and Bowie – who played him – began, then that goes double for its musical sequel, ‘Lazarus’.

Co-written by Enda Walsh and Bowie, ‘Lazarus’ catches up with Newton (Michael C Hall) in the present day, as he morosely drinks gin in his featureless apartment. There is little actual plot, but a sense of events finally comes to a head, as Newton’s hope and despair become manifested as ingénue the Girl (Sophia Anne Caruso) and the psychotic Valentine (Michael Esper). Meanwhile his new PA, Elly (Amy Lennox), finds her personality is being overwritten by that of Thomas’s lost love, Mary-Lou.

Ivo van Hove’s claustrophobic production is more like a mood than a story, a homage to Nicholas Roeg’s hallucinatory film, but also, perhaps, a window into the near-decade of seclusion that followed Bowie’s withdrawal from public life in 2004.

Does this make it a good musical? I dunno: it’s weirdly caught between aggressive artiness and a certain triteness. If you haven’t seen – and liked – the film, you’ll quite possibly be totally at sea here. If you do love its brooding vibes, you may cringe at a couple of moments where its icy aloofness is punctured by overly sincere, ‘X Factor’-style performances of a couple of numbers. 

However, I can’t help but feel it shouldn’t be viewed as just a musical. Even if he’d lived, Bowie had apparently sworn off further live shows, and I would guess ‘Lazarus’ was part-conceived as a substitute. Almost none of the songs – even the four moody new ones – feel integral to the plot, and could probably be swapped for something else without really changing the feel of the show. But as a concert setlist it makes perfect sense. Played by a live band and directed by a man famous for his love of rock music, it’s roughly 50/50 ‘new’ material (drawing partly on 2013 comeback album ‘The Next Day’) and classics that fit the elegiac mood (‘Life on Mars?’, ‘Absolute Beginners’, stripped down takes on ‘Changes’ and ‘”Heroes”’).

Unlike Bowie’s towering final album ‘Blackstar’, ‘Lazarus’ is a flawed work. But I can’t help but love it, in the same way I love ‘Outside’ and ‘Reality’ and all those other flawed latter-day Bowie records. In no small part that’s down to Hall, magnificently other as the depressed immortal, and with a powerful vibrato that sounds uncannily like Bowie’s. But more than that, and casting objectivity to the wind, I feel moved by the very existence of ‘Lazarus’, which feels like Bowie’s final tour, testament and eccentric project all wrapped into one. It is not a valedictory romp through his greatest hits, but something rarer, more interesting and more frustrating: a last transmission from a dying star.

Details

Users say (19)

3 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

2.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:5
  • 2 star:5
  • 1 star:3
LiveReviews|19
2 people listening
2 of 2 found helpful
tastemaker

Let me start with the good:


- the songs and lyrics (obviously!),

- the band (great musicians),

- the cast (the voices are strong),

- The set was also quite innovative and interesting. 


Now, the not so good:


there was no flow to what was going on on stage and it just seemed to be incoherent mumblings.  It wasn’t engaging and I, like those around me, were just confused as to what was going on.  One guy actually fell asleep in our row.

- the seating arrangement (the seating plan doesn’t work and it seems the theatre was more interesting in cramming in as many people as possible with little concern as to whether those towards the back had any decent view at all - I appreciate I bought restricted view tickets, but I’ve never had such a terribly restricted view.


We ended up leaving 20mins before the end as my friend was concerned he’d no longer like Bowie if we stayed any longer - we took our lead from others who making early exits too.  Diehard Bowie fans will either appreciate the musical and laud it or feel bitterly disappointed as they think of what could have been.  This musical is like marmite - you’ll either love it or hate it.  At the end of the day, I personally would have enjoyed listening to Bowie at home more. 

1 of 1 found helpful
Tastemaker

I found Lazarus a very difficult watch. Partly for its total lack of cohesive plot, partly for its disney princess child actress, and partly because I couldn't help but feel disappointed that Bowie's final work didn't amount to more. Michael C Hall is undeniably great as the tortured protagonist, but his performance was the sole highlight for me. 

1 of 1 found helpful

Pure pretentious drivel. Incredibly boring drivel at that, seemingly interminable. And in a theatre with the worst sight lines in London with anything more than halfway back feeling miles from the "stage".  Do yourself a favour and put on some Bowie albums at home instead.

1 of 1 found helpful

Fantastic visuals and concept design.  Top acting.  A first-class band and some great 3D pop video moments (that's not a criticism!).  But... there's something missing in the play.

The Nicolas Roeg film which prompted it, was elliptical - but it also had a solid script and I'm not convinced that Lazarus does.  Non-linear, yep.  Ambiguous, yep.  But there's something missing.


Still, full marks for innovation!  And I'll probably go again ahahaha!

1 of 1 found helpful
Tastemaker

I've been mulling over Lazarus ever since I saw it last night and I'm still fundamentally undecided about how good it actually was. There is no doubt in my mind that I enjoyed it enormously (and there are moments of beauty in Lazarus) and that the cast were great (Michael C Hall's has the uncanny ability to recall Bowie without slipping into caricature). In fact, for those who are still mourning David Bowie's death earlier this year, some of Michael C Hall's performances will make your heart catch in your throat (especially for those like me who were too young to catch Bowie's live stage career). In that sense, Lazarus lives up to its name; it resurrects Bowie for those of us left behind here on earth without the Starman. The aspects which let down Lazarus are where Bowie classics (such as Life on Mars or All the Young Dudes) pop up and take you out of the play. The disjointed and non-linear nature of the narrative might be all that is keeping Lazarus from being a standard jukebox musical. 

Tastemaker

Well that was one experimental and gloomy musical. I took my friend to see it for her birthday as we're both Michael C. Hall fans and she's a big David Bowie afficionado. I wouldn't say I regret going but it was definitely not uplifting on a freezing and rainy January Sunday. The acting direction was very bizarre and just felt... off. There was no real storyline. The great highlight of it for us was the truly impressive voices of Michael C. Hall and the 15-year-old actress playing the angel inside his head. The music of course was brilliant and composed of both new and old Bowie songs (such as Heroes, Changes or Life on Mars).

Tastemaker

Very disappointing. Although the music was great, the singers were overly earnest and over-the-top in their delivery and the show itself pretentious and lacking in direction. A complete lack of plot makes for quite a dull experience, all in all.

Tastemaker

The music in this David Bowie’s musical obviously doesn’t disappoint.Nice new arrangements for old songs, and beautifully sang by the actors – especially remarkable is Michael C Hall, that is able to channel Bowie himself in many of the songs. But then, besides the songs... it’s hard to review this play. Weird and mostly senseless, the plot is quite hard to really understand – there are a few stories going on that somewhat intertwine. The song, although great and emotional, seem on times to be forced in the story (or the plot seems stretched to fit the songs...).The simple setting is beautiful, with the musicians in the back almost always on sight, but the theatre is really bad, making it difficult to see a lot of the stage. It seems to be worst seating in the back, but I’ve heard people who seated more in front also complaining...

Tastemaker

Oh dear, I must say I was rather disappointed after watching this production. It could have been so much better. I was really looking forward to seeing this and I’ll admit that I like a lot of David Bowies music with the legend that he is. The story was just all very confusing and a bit too 'out there' for me, in fact the person i was seeing it with was equally just as baffled as me, maybe we just didn’t get it.

No discredit to the actors and musicians who were good and sang well; the main lead actually sounded so remarkably similar to Bowie. Unlike a lot of other productions the band and musicians are fully visible and incorporated into the backdrop and the scenes quite cleverly. I thought this was great to see although it could be distracting to some. I loved the rendition of Life on Mars and the simple set design with screens and clever camera work with almost fly on the wall documentary style at times. I really didn’t warm to any of the characters and this is certainly not what you’d call an uplifting play, i actually got a bit bored towards the end. Overall the plot was too confusing, very very odd and strange and unfortunately this rocket man never really launched. Also the seats at the back offered really bad views whenever any of the cast were lying or sitting on the stage floor (which was quite a bit) that I couldn’t see anything and I didn’t even opt for restricted view seats. Possibly slightly more tiered seated would have easily resolved this issue.
tastemaker

I fear that someone has spread the rumour that plot/story should be a an afterthought, if a thought at all. The staging was clever, the visuals brilliantly executed and very effective but it really ended up being a series of theatrical music videos. The singing was excellent but there was something strange going on with the backing vocals in Changes. 


The venue is interesting but the seats are badly designed. Way too upright, made for a very uncomfortable 2 hours. Ohhh and no interval! I am not a big fan of the interval but it's a long performance without a break.  

Tastemaker
Featured

A chaotic and crazy play, legacy of David Bowie. Great performances (especially Michael C Hall - excellent in singing), stunning music and visuals. All these in one of the worst theatre in London; air-conditioning that makes noise and linear sitting that you can't see due to the people sitting in front of you.

Tastemaker

Totally bonkers! As a massive Bowie fan it was a no brainer I would go see his last piece of work. My fear was that in a musical the songs would become cheesy. This wasn’t totally the case. In fact Michael C Hall who plays Thomas Newton manages a very Bowie-esq voice without sounding like a second rate impersonator and this helps in a cast full of American accents. However you should expect some piercing falsetto renditions of Bowie tracks. The visuals and set design is brilliant, so well thought out, it takes you on a journey without having to change much on stage. The story is mad - barely a story in fact, more interchanging moods, but regardless it’s incredibly emotive throughout: at times painful, at others heart warming. I totally recommend going although it won’t be for everyone: it could be perceived borderline indulgent and ‘arty’, but for me it stands alone as a good piece of theatre and doubles up as a fitting tribute to the late great David Bowie.

Staff Writer

I understand why people don't like it. It's pretty heavy going as the plot is so sporadic and sparse. It's also very stripped back both with set design and staging that it sometimes can seem like a parade in egotism but if you've seen The Man Who Fell To Earth, you'll get a lot more out of the show than if you've not. For me, it was about the incredible performances - Michael C Hall is particularly stirring - the beautiful arrangements of well-known songs and the emotional response I had while watching it. It's not the best piece of theatre I've seen in 2016 but it's definitely a memorable one.


I had great hopes for this but was disappointed. No character had any charm or story. Songs were shoe horned into place with flash backs, flash forwards and I swear a flash sideways. I found this pretentious and trying too hard to be obscure and arty, to going from stupor inducing slowness progressing to migraine inducing noise and flashing lights. Not an enjoyable experience.


Stunning, heartbreaking and chaotic. It's certainly not for the faint hearted, and it you're just not the sort of person who enjoys art or arty films it probably won't be for you.


I liked the music, I liked the singing too... but I didn't like the choppiness of the story and I guess the side-stories.  It was all a bit muddled, dark and light and a bit sad.  Luckily not all the songs were from Bowie's final album and some old favourites were left in so that was worth it in itself in the end.


I had my eye on this production as soon as it was announced. I’m a fan of musicals myself but my partner isn’t keen… he was convinced to go with me though based on the Bowie connection. Despite going on Bonfire night (with every firework in London being heard from inside the shipping container that is the stage) and sitting at the very back close to a heating machine (which appeared to be the only one actually on and was making quite a racket).. I really enjoyed myself. It’s not that easy to follow (partner : “I’ve no idea what is going on”) but if you go along with it you’ll be rewarded. If anything hearing Michael C Hall singing Lazarus is worth the ticket price alone.

0 of 1 found helpful

I saw this on its second night and thought it was fantastic. Great performances, stunning music and real visual flair in how it was staged. It also had one of the most moving and poignant endings I've encountered at the theatre. I too could see myself going to see it again!

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