Bowie Off-Broadway

Gijsbert Hanekroot / Getty Images

The rock legend partners with the hottest director in town.

If Ivo van Hove’s name doesn’t yet ring a bell among New York theatergoers, it will seem omnipresent less than a year from now. The Belgian director, known for his raw, often minimalist approach to both modern and ancient warhorses, will direct two Arthur Miller classics on Broadway. His shoeless (and mostly propless) take on A View from the Bridge comes to the Lyceum Theatre in November after an Olivier-sweeping run at London’s Young Vic. Then, in the spring, van Hove is bringing The Crucible to the Walter Kerr Theatre, with music by Philip Glass.

In between, van Hove is venturing off-Broadway with what is perhaps the most anticipated new musical of the season: Lazarus, cowritten by David Bowie and Once scribe Enda Walsh, at New York Theatre Workshop. Though inspired by the 1963 novel The Man Who Fell to Earth and its 1976 film version (which starred Bowie, above, as humanish alien Thomas Newton), Lazarus, van Hove is quick to say, is not a straightforward adaptation. It picks up four decades after the film’s story ended, following Newton and a cast of new characters. “David Bowie told me specifically he did not want a jukebox musical,” van Hove says. “He wanted his songs to mean something within the context of the drama.” It was van Hove’s idea to cast Dexter’s Michael C. Hall as Newton. “I think Michael will be able to deliver the right mixture of someone who is a human being, someone with feelings,” van Hove says, “while giving it a little twist of someone who is a bit not part of our society.”

Expect a show that, like all van Hove’s productions, uses avant-garde techniques (he won’t disclose much, other than to say video projections will be involved) to get to the emotional core of the story. “I was immediately touched by the fact that this is a very dark but also moving piece,” van Hove says. “It’s not a feel-good musical—it’s a serious piece of art, talking about the real things in life in a deeper way.” November 18–December 27; New York Theatre Workshop; 79 E. 4th St.; 212-460-5475; nytw.org.