This month, ex-Hedwig star Michael C. Hall steps into the shoes of Thomas Newton, a role made famous by David Bowie in the 1976 cult film The Man Who Fell to Earth, based on the sci-fi novel. The new adaptation, Lazarus, opening at New York Theatre Workshop this month, features songs by the rock legend. They — like Hall’s performance — are sure to be otherworldly.
You were Hedwig on Broadway. Did playing a glam-rock goddess help get you this role?
Ivo van Hove, the director of Lazarus, saw me in Hedwig. That served as an audition of sorts. I felt charged with a responsibility given how much I love that show. I wanted to honor and guard it. Plus, I got to perform kick-ass rock ’n’ roll songs.
And eat cigarettes.
As far as eating the cigarette, I stole that from Neil [Patrick Harris, who played Hedwig before Hall]. I can’t take responsibility for that.
How did Lazarus come about?
People have been lobbying for Bowie to do some sort of theatrical production that involved new and existing music. The fact that he decided this was the time and Thomas would be the character is intriguing. But this isn’t the David Bowie story. I wasn’t hired to do a Bowie impression.
It’s not really a musical. So what is it exactly?
It’s certainly not a musical in any traditional sense — the songs don’t serve the traditional musical theater function in some cases — and there’s a significant amount of dialogue, but there’s 15 or 18 songs in the show. It’s not a retelling of the movie or the science fiction book. It’s an interior fever dream of the character, there’s an interior intimate energy that will be required. But it’s also a musical with some pretty dynamic music there will be a more expansive energy too. So I hope it will be a broad-spectrum experience.
Speaking of Davids, your role in Six Feet Under as David, a gay funeral director, was pivotal. What’s your favorite memory from the show?
The times we were sitting at the kitchen table portraying that family feel like real memories. David felt real; the family felt real. The story felt as if it were unfolding in a parallel universe.
What’s your first Bowie memory?
I was in third or fourth grade, and I remember hearing my friend’s older brother’s copy of Young Americans on the turntable. The Breakfast Club was also huge when I was in junior high — it used that “Changes” quote: “And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds…” That led me to go listen to his older stuff.
Do you have a favorite Bowie song?
Probably “Quicksand” from Hunky Dory. I love the sort of beautiful dismay of it. Yeah, I really love that song.
So were you terrified meeting Bowie?
Meeting him is something I’m still not entirely convinced actually happened.
Lazarus is at New York Theatre Workshop, Nov. 18, 2015 - Jan. 17, 2016