Last year on the 10th of January, David Bowie passed away in his New York City home after a year-long encounter with liver cancer, shortly after his 69th birthday and the release of his final album, Blackstar. Shortly prior to his passing, Bowie’s legacy was also developed upon with the Broadway inauguration of the musical Lazarus, a challenging and artistic representation of mental health, city living and Bowie’s music.
David Bowie may have been an artist who traversed genres and styles, a characteristic element of his career which he now may be immortalized for. On his website, Bowie is remembered as being “driven by an entirely deeper dynamic than most pop artists… [he] inhabits a very special world of extraordinary sounds and endless vision… Bowie writes and performs what he wants, when he wants.” These elements may play a crucial role in Lazarus, which, as one of his penultimate projects, may epitomize his career and life goals in the artistic world.
Created as a development upon the film in which David Bowie starred in, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Lazurus furthers the tale of Thomas Newton and the challenges which he continues to face and overcome in his life. The musical aims to run through until the end of January, and is hosted by the King’s Cross Theatre in North London, close to the areas in which Bowie’s musical career first began in the 70’s. The musical may be the product of David Bowie’s artistic vision; inspired by his interactions with the Walter Tevis novel featuring Thomas Newton and the consequent film, Bowie united with Enda Walsh to integrate music from across his career with the tale of Thomas J Newton, a man who has found himself relocated into the life of a successful New Yorker, which is inspired by the events from the movie, The Man Who Fell to Earth.
Featured in the musical may be Michael C Hall in the starring role of Thomas Newton, as well as Michael Esper, Sophia Anne Caruso and Amy Lennox, who play the figments of his life in reality as well as the life within his own mind. The action of the musical may be illustrated by Bowie’s music, drawing inspiration from his explorations of existence, space and modern living.
In order to capture both Thomas Newton’s life and challenges and Bowie’s vision, the set design of the musical may be crucial to the communication of the themes. The action takes place almost entirely in the 2nd Avenue apartment of Newton, an expansive yet blank space in which Newton completes his everyday routine; remembering his previous life and love through redolent visions and song. To enlighten the beige and blank set design, the stage utilizes modern technology through a large television screen, upon which the inner dialogue of Newton is explored and the audience may catch a glimpse of his experience of life. The references to Bowie’s art may be subtle, and consequently potentially create an air of respect, simplicity and innocence – such as the rocket in which Newton dreams of returning to his home, which may be composed of white duct tape upon the stage floor.
Whilst Bowie may have seen the opening night in New York rather than this year’s London show, David Bowie’s legacy, message and artistic vision may still be perceivable in the London run of the musical. The musical may conclude its West End feature this month, yet the legacy which it and its author leaves behind may be powerful.
How may artistic influences create a legacy which society may learn from?