David Bowie's 'Lazarus' Director Divulges Details of Mysterious Show

Ivo van Hove notes musical-theater project's "broken and fractured" plot, "sad and shocking ending"

The director of David Bowie's mysterious musical-theater project 'Lazarus' teased the show's "broken and fractured" plot, "sad and shocking ending" Credit: L. Busacca/WireImage/Getty

The curtain covering David Bowie's mysterious musical-theater project Lazarus was pulled back slightly by the show's director, Ivo van Hove, who offered some details about the plot to The New York Times.

Co-written by Bowie and Tony-winning playwright Enda Walsh (Once), Lazarus has been billed as an extension of Walter Tevis' 1963 novel, The Man Who Fell to Earth. The play focuses on the novel's alien protagonist Thomas Newton, whom Bowie played in Nicolas Roeg's 1976 film adaptation (Dexter's Michael C. Hall will portray Newton in the upcoming show).

Van Hove outlined some story specifics, reading from a note scrawled in his script: "Lazarus focuses on Newton as he remains on Earth, a man unable to die, his head soaked in cheap gin and haunted by a past love. We follow Newton through the course of a few days where the arrival of another lost soul might set him free."

The director also noted the story was "broken and fractured" with pertinent information arriving late in the show. "You don’t know what you’re watching for about 40 minutes or so," he said. Van Hove, however, believed audiences would be able to follow along on "an emotional level," and teased "a sad and shocking ending."

Despite the lack of details, Lazarus has already become the fastest-selling show the Off Broadway New York Theater Workshop has produced in its 36 years. The theater has also housed Rent and Enda Walsh's Once, both of which became massive Broadway hits.

Walsh also offered some thematic hints while discussing his role co-writing Lazarus with Bowie"This is really my territory," he said. "I understand that isolated, lonely, broken, unstable sort of character." The writer also recalled hearing songs Bowie wrote for the production before they began working on the script, describing the music and lyrics as fraught "with a mixture of romance and itchy violence."

Times reporter Alexis Soloski also offered a few tidbits from a rehearsal she was allowed to attend. A young girl and a chorus of, per Soloski, "angels (or were they prostitutes, or angel prostitutes?)" sang "This is Not America," which Bowie and the Pat Metheny Group recorded for The Falcon and the Snowman soundtrack. Elsewhere, Hall sang an ostensibly new ballad that opened with the lyric, "Look up here, I'm in heaven."

"Then," Soloski added, "he attempted autoerotic asphyxiation with a blue negligee."

Along with Hall, Lazarus stars Cristin Milioti and Michael Esper. Performances begin November 18th, and the show officially opens on December 7th.

Bowie is also set to release a new album, Blackstar, on January 8th, 2016. The LP, which follows his 2013 effort, The Next Day, will reportedly feature some songs from Lazarus.