Tag Archives: musical

David Bowie’s Lazarus musical hits London: first review

7 Nov

Michael C Hall as Thomas Newton, with (left) Amy Lennox as the woman obsessed with him and Sophia Anne Caruso (right) as his guardian angel, in David Bowie’s Lazarus musical

Does Lazarus, the new David Bowie musical which has just transferred to King’s Cross in London from a sell-out run off-Broadway, live up to the mostly positive if faintly baffled reviews it received in New York? Put it this way: I went with four other people, three of them ardent Bowie fans, one so-so. By the end, I was the only one who hadn’t walked out. And I stayed largely on the basis that, having shelled out £75 for a ticket, I was damn well going to find something to enjoy. Then again, many in the audience gave it a standing ovation, so it hits the right note for some.

The plot – or more accurately premise, since there is nothing so jejune as a plot in evidence – is that we pick up where The Man Who Fell To Earth left off: with alien entrepreneur Thomas Newton trapped in a bare hotel room in unageing anhedonia, living off gin and Twinkies, and assailed by visitations of guardian angels and serial killers. Bowie songs begin and end pretty much at random, without troubling themselves to reflect the action.

The kindest thing one can say is that they demonstrate what a great singer Bowie was, because, delivered in musical style, they mostly sound hideous. Lyrics such as “It’s on America’s tortured brow, that Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow” are belted out as though profound rather than tossed off archly as Bowie would have done. Even Heroes, which you’d think was bullet-proof, sounds naff. Changes made me feel almost physically sick.

It’s not all bad: All The Young Dudes, The Man Who Sold the World, Valentine’s Day and It’s No Game work well, and the band, visible behind a perspex screen, are solid. Director Ivo van Hove pulls off the odd coup de théâtre, especially towards the end, making spectacular use of a floor-to-ceiling video screen. Michael C Hall of Dexter fame is in good voice as Newton, though he can’t rescue the bizarrely wooden dialogue. Michael Esper makes a convincing psycho.

But to me it’s all too little, too late, to save a production that feels like it was cobbled together in very little time from a few half-formed scraps of ideas – which, having subsequently read up on the genesis of the show, seems to be pretty much what happened in the rush to put on this “play with music” while Bowie yet lived.

Others will disagree. It’s a polarising, love-it-or-hate-it production. And in that, if nothing else, it’s a fitting testimonial to Bowie’s restlessly inventive and mercurial artistry.



Made In Dagenham: £15 tix

2 Apr
Gemma Arterton leads the cast of Made In Dagenham

Gemma Arterton leads the cast of Made In Dagenham

I’ve just seen that there are discounted £15 seats for Made In Dagenham (normally £35-£55), now that the show is closing after just five months on April 11. The offer ends midnight Friday, and is available here: bit.ly/1yHEjE8.

It’s sad that the musical failed to find an audience. The script is witty, the songs gutsy, the set amazing (justly nominated for an Olivier Award) and the true story of female Dagenham factory workers fighting for their rights, which led directly to the Equal Pay Act of 1970, still strikes a chord. The sequences with Harold Wilson are also some of the funniest I have ever seen on stage.

The West End has hosted too many so-so retreads of big Hollywood movies. It’s good to see one that takes some risks. And though it may not have the heart and the universality of Billy Elliot, it is my by some margin my favourite out of a good half dozen new musicals I’ve seen recently (including the misfire that is Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown).

And for £15? That’s the price of a West End film ticket.

Great Scott! It’s Back To The Future on stage!

31 Jan


I am returning from the future to let you know that the latest film-to-stage spectacular has become a massive hit. I’ve been keeping this news secret until today’s official press announcement, but Back To The Future has its world premiere as a musical in London in 2015 to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary.

Once upon a time, Hollywood employed the sharpest stage writers and adapted the best plays into films. Recently the traffic has been in the other direction. Mama Mia!, Legally Blonde, Dirty Dancing, Ghost, Sister Act, The Bodyguard, The Commitments, From Here To Eternity, Spamalot and, from March, Fatal Attraction; and those are just the names at the tip of my tongue, no Google required. But Back To The Future is the greatest of them all.

First, it’s a perfect script: smart, funny, appealing to all generations, not too clever-clever twisty-turny but enough so to keep the geeks (like me) happy. “Why is everything so heavy in the future?” asks Doc of Marty McFly’s favourite expression. “Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?”

Second, the musical element is built-in, not tacked on. Marty dreams of being a rock star, and ends up inventing rock ‘n’ roll when Marvin Berry’s brother hears him play and calls up his brother Chuck to have a listen.

Third, skateboarding! Fourth, cool car! Fifth, flux capacitor! Sixth… well, it’s Back To The Future!

I’ve been on the Back To The Future ride in Universal Studios, with its newly recorded video link from Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown. That was super-fun. The musical is even funner (yes, that’s a word).

I know. I’ve seen it.