Credit: Jimmy KingEarly last year, David Bowie surprised fans by revealing he’d recorded a brand-new album called The Next Day during a time when most people thought the influential singer was retired from the music biz. Now, the Thin White Duke has another unveiled another surprise: He’s been working on an off-Broadway production titled Lazarus that will premiere this winter at the New York Theatre Workshop.

The project is inspired by the 1963 Walter Tevis novel The Man Who Fell to Earth, and focuses on the character Thomas Jerome Newton, whom Bowie portrayed in the 1976 film version of the book. David is collaborating on the production with Irish playwright Enda Walsh, who won a Tony Award for his stage adaptation of the movie Once. Perhaps the most exciting news is that Bowie has composed some brand-new songs for Lazarus, which also will feature newly arranged renditions of previously recorded tunes.

The production will be directed by Ivo van Hove, an award-winning Belgian director known for his work in avant-garde theater.

The New York Theatre Workshop’s artistic director, James C. Nicola, tells The New York Times that the project has been in secret development for a number of years. Nicola also reveals that Bowie had the idea to create a stage production based on The Man Who Fell to Earth, and brought it to van Hove, who, in turn, got Walsh and the theater company involved.

“It’s going to be a play with characters and songs,” says Nicola about Lazarus. “I’m calling it music theater, but I don’t really know what it’s going to be like, I just have incredible trust in their creative vision.”

He adds that the show would not necessarily follow the story told in the book and film — which tells the tale of an alien seeking to return home to his planet — although some of the same characters will be featured.

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