David Bowie's Secret Theater Project 'Lazarus' to Feature New Songs

Musical uses same characters from the musician's cult film 'The Man Who Fell to Earth'

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David Bowie
David Bowie who played John Merrick in "The? Elephant Man" on broadway and co-starred Patricia Elliott (L) are congratulated by Gilda Radner in New York City on September 29th, 1980. AFP/Getty

Update: Dexter star Michael C. Hall, who also appeared on Six Feet Under and in the title role of Broadway's Hedwig and the Angry Inch, will play Thomas Newton in LazarusVariety reports the production will open in December.

No stranger to keeping secrets, the ever-incalculable David Bowie has revealed that he's been laboring for years in private on a musical-theater extension of Walter Tevis' 1963 novel The Man Who Fell to Earth, which will be produced later this year. The singer – whose latest single, "Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)," veered toward the theatrical – co-wrote the production Lazarus with Tony-winning playwright Enda Walsh (Once) and composed new songs for it.

Lazarus will focus on the novel's Thomas Newton, whom Bowie portrayed the 1976 film adaptation of the book. But The New York Times reports it will not be a rehash of the same story Bowie fans know. The production will instead feature some of the same characters.

In addition to the new Bowie songs, Lazarus will also feature newer arrangements of older songs, though it did not specify which tunes or by whom they were written. The soundtrack to The Man Who Fell to Earth featured music not by the film's star but by the Mama and the Papas' John Phillips and Japanese composer Stomu Yamashta, despite the fact Bowie had written music for it. (Collaborator Paul Buckmaster has said he felt the Thin White Duke's contributions weren't used because it wasn't what director Nic Roeg was looking for, according to a Mojo interview via BowieGoldenYears.com.)

Belgian director Ivo van Hove, known for producing avant-garde works, will helm the project, which will premiere at the Off-Broadway outpost New York Theatre Workshop. The director previously used Bowie's music in his Dutch-language production of Angels in America at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last year.

The New York Theatre Workshop's artistic director, James C. Nicola, had trouble describing the work when speaking to the Times. "It's going to be a play with characters and songs – I'm calling it music theater, but I don't really know what it's going to be like, I just have incredible trust in their creative vision," he said. "I'm really excited about it. These are three very different sensibilities to be colliding."

Bowie, who did not comment on the work himself, will not appear in Lazarus. The last time the singer graced the stage of a theatrical production was in a 1980 Broadway production of The Elephant Man, in which he played John Merrick (recently portrayed on Broadway by Bradley Cooper).

Lazarus will open at an as-yet-unspecified date in the winter.

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