On this week’s +1 podcast: A conversation with Henry Hey, the orchestrator, arranger and musical director for Lazarus, the off-Broadway musical set to the songs of David Bowie.
Lazarus only ran in New York for six weeks last winter, and the songs weren’t available for anyone to hear outside of those live performances until this week, when Columbia Records released the cast recording of Lazarus, along with three new songs Bowie wrote and recorded for the musical. The tracks, written during his Blackstar sessions, were among the final recordings Bowie made before he died of liver cancer on Jan. 10.
To understand Lazarus, you first have to know about the 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth. Bowie starred in the movie as Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien who travels to earth in search of water for his dying planet. He starts a tech company, gets rich and uses the money to build a spaceship to transport water back home. But before he can take off, the government catches on and arrests him. After years in captivity, he’s eventually freed, but left a lonely, broken alcoholic.
Bowie always wanted to revisit his role in the film and conceived of Lazarus as a sequel that picks back up with his alien 40 years later. Though time has passed, Newton, played in the musical by Michael C. Hall, hasn’t aged. But he’s still addicted to alcohol, binges on Twinkies, and television. Set to a mix of Bowie’s back catalog, Lazarus follows Newton as he tries find his way back home.
Henry Hey worked closely with Bowie on arranging and orchestrating the songs for the stage. In this conversation, he talks about how he and Bowie reshaped the music to tell the story and what it meant to work on the iconic singer’s final project.
Picture by Jimmy King.