THE FULL INSIDE STORY of David Bowie's final work – the stage resurrection of the character the singer played in The Man Who Fell To Earth – is told in the latest MOJO magazine, out in the UK now.
The producer, writer, star actor and musical director who worked closely with Bowie in his final months, to realise a vision the singer had been toying with since he bought the rights to Walter Tevis' novel of The Man Who Fell To Earth in 2005, all reveal the ins and outs of a remarkable creative endeavour.
The musical play, featuring new songs by Bowie and others from his catalogue, transferred to London this week (October 25) and continues at the Kings Cross Theatre until January 22, 2017. Meanwhile, a cast CD has just been released featuring the show versions of the songs plus three previously unreleased bonus recordings from the Blackstar album sessions: No Plan, Killing A Little Time and When I Met You.
“David told us that he wasn't well. That's when he said, We've got to do this. And crack on with it.”
In a fascinating feature full of telling detail, writer Enda Walsh remembers the play’s first New York read-through for director Ivo Van Hove. “It was wonderfully bizarre,” says Walsh. “David read him the first act, playing all the characters.”
But it was only in December 2014, says producer Robert Fox, that the production’s principals were made aware of the crucial subtext.
“David told us that he wasn't well,” Fox tells MOJO's Paul Trynka. “He couldn't be around for certain parts of the workshops and wanted us to know if he wasn't around it was because he couldn't, not because he'd lost interest. That's when he said, We've got to do this. And crack on with it.”
Yet Bowie’s vibes were overwhelmingly positive. Walsh tells how the singer took him on a visit to New York’s Museum Of Modern Art, commenting on the pieces in a comedy accent, while the play’s star turn, Michael C. Hall, recalls how Bowie would creep into rehearsals, trying not to distract the actors – to no avail. “The molecules in the room would shift,” says Hall.
The first night was fraught with unknowns, not least the question of whether the by now gravely ill Bowie would turn up. “I was sitting down in my seat with my wife, it was getting towards the time it should start, and the row behind was empty,” says Fox. “Then he came in, looking fabulous, with Iman and [assistant] Coco [Schwab].”
In another coup for MOJO, Blackstar sax man Donny McCaslin takes us through the Lazarus bonus tracks in detail, including the “sinister vibe and crunchy chords” of Killing A Little Time.
McCaslin also shares some of Bowie’s edit notes on the Blackstar sessions, before concluding with a tantalising revelation.
“There was at least one more song that I heard in its final version,” says McCaslin, “that is, mixed and mastered. It sounded great. I loved it. I don’t know what’s gonna happen with that but I hope it comes out.”