Music / Review

Exploring life, death, and the in-between with Lazarus

Through his final artistic creation, Lazarus: The Musical continues the weird and wonderful legacy of David Bowie.

If there has ever been an artist more suited to be honoured through theatre than David Bowie, we can’t find one.

Throughout his career, Bowie became the embodiment of human art – through music, fashion, acting, and beyond he pushed the envelope in every way possible.

And once he was done, he pushed it further again.

Now Lazarus: The Musical continues that incredible legacy. First staged in New York in late 2015, it’s opening night was the last public appearance David Bowie made before his tragic passing just three weeks later. In the years since, the production has enjoyed sell-out seasons in New York and London. Now the ground-breaking musical has landed in Australia.

In the final project Bowie created, Thomas Jerome Newton (yes, that is the same character Bowie brought to life in the 1976 sci-fi film The Man Who Fell To Earth) is forced to face his own fate.

Trapped on Earth, and after the loss of his darling Mary Lou, he spends his days drinking in his lonely apartment. But then Elly comes to work for him, and suddenly the voices in Newton’s head get a whole lot louder.

Don’t go into this one expecting conventional narrative storytelling – this is a piece from the mind of David Bowie after all.

Jagged and eclectic, you might be left with more questions than answers as the final curtain comes down, but that openness is all part of Lazarus’ wonder.

As Newton questions the meaning and direction of his life – battling between living, trying to get to the next stage, and being stuck somewhere in between, we too are urged to take an inward look at ourselves. And much like all of Bowie’s art, the interpretation is left solely up to you.

If you’re mostly here to hear Bowie’s hits in a whole new way, you are definitely going to walk away pleased. 18 of Bowie’s tracks feature throughout – from those that are much-loved like ‘Changes’ and ‘Life on Mars?’ to more recent EP b-sides like ‘Killing A Little Time’. The pièce de résistance has to be ‘Heroes’ – here we get a beautifully stripped-back rendition that is sure to leave a lump in your throat.

Image Credit: Jeff Busby

There is so much to celebrate about Australia’s production of Lazarus. The cast are phenomenal in their roles. Chris Ryan (Monty Navarro in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder) is an incredibly convincing Newton and his vocal performances are some of the most powerful of the whole show. Australian-New Zealand singer iOTA (Valentine), Phoebe Panaretos (Elly) and the rest of the cast support his narrative to great success, while stealing the limelight through their own emotionally-charged tracks.

The band also deserve a round of applause, doing an incredible job at bringing the entire soundtrack to life. As do the costume designers who managed to craft as much interest and meaning in the slate, grey ensembles as they did in their wild, colourful outfits.

We don’t want to give too much away, but the stunning visuals projected onto the glass panels onstage are an Australian first and are sure to blow your mind.

Lazarus: The Musical is an incredibly fitting legacy to continue the Starman’s magic. It runs at Art Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse Theatre until Sunday 9 June. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster.com.au.

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