Manuel Agnelli debuts in David Bowie’s Lazarus at the Cesena theater with Casadilego

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On Wednesday 22 March there was the great debut in Cesena of Lazarus, a play signed by the late genius David Bowie. Starring Manuel Agnelli, accompanied by various artists including Casadilego, the pièce won the hearts of the spectators, complete with ten minutes of applause at the end of the show.
In addition to the winner of the XIV edition of X factr Casadilego, the choreographer and dancer Michela Lucenti also stands out among the names involved.

The rock opera, directed by Valter Malosti and produced by ERT/Teatro Nazionale, was staged at the Teatro Bonci in Cesena. “A showcase of national excellence for the Bonci”, reads an article published in these hours by The Rest of the Pug.

Cesena is actually one of the rockiest cities in Italy, in Europe and, dare we say, even in the world: let us remember in fact that one of the most epic feats in the history of rock is the one in which the great Fabio Zaffagnini launched himself, profession geologist and passion for the guitar. Today he is no longer a geologist and is one of the thousand guitarists (as well as CEO) of Rockin’1000-The Biggest Rock Band on Earth, the musical supergroup made up of professional and non-professional volunteer musicians from all over the world. Born in Italy in 2014 as a tribute to the Foo Fighters, the group became famous in 2015 with the mass execution of the song Learn to Fly, for the creation of a video clip to be published on YouTube to convince the Foo Fighters to come to Cesena to hold a concert. Mission Impossible? Well, then Fabio Zaffagnini is the Tom Cruise de’ Noantri: on November 3rd 2015 Dave Grohl and co played in Cesena! Since then Cesena caput Mundi as far as rock is concerned, then there was no better city than this for the stage debut of Lazarus by David Bowie.

A round revolving stage

At the Bonci theater in Cesena a round revolving stage welcomed Manuel Agnelli and the other protagonists of Lazarus.
The sparse scene, with an armchair, a table and a few other objects, is dominated by a giant screen to which are added four other oblique screens. “A carpet of sound filled with dark sounds, crackles, pops, scratching of needles and out-of-frequency transmissions”, this is how the pièce describes The Rest of the Pug.

The scene wants to visually render the tired and derailed mind of the protagonist, Thomas Newton, interpreted for this Italian version by Manuel Agnelli.
Lazurus by David Bowie and Enda Walsh will be staged in Cesena at the Bonci theater in the national premiere until Sunday 26 March, in the Italian version by Valter Malosti.
The theatrical tour will then move to Modena, Rimini, Rome, Bologna, Naples, Lugano, Milan, Ferrara and Turin, in a tour that will continue until mid-June (at the bottom of this article you will find all the dates of the show’s reruns).

Newton-Manuel Agnelli is Bowie’s alter ego, the film’s alien The man who fell to earth of 1976.

The plot of Lazarus

The original plot of the literary work of Walter Trevis has the alien Thomas Jerome Newton as its protagonist. This extraterrestrial arrives on Earth to save his family from the terrible drought that has hit his planet. But he will fail in his mission, remaining trapped on the planet of human beings forever, without being able to die or return home.

Lazarus is set in the apartment where Newton lives in New York. The alien is condemned to stay on Earth forever, living isolated from the world: locked up in his apartment, he is afflicted by depression and alcohol alterations, prey to the ghosts of his psyche that mixes dream and reality.
He lives segregated in his room, as well as in his mind ravaged by drugs and alcohol. He is an immortal alien, victim of a strong depression that will never leave him. Alone and desperate, the work that tells of his horrible life is punctuated by the songs of David Bowie, here interpreted by Agnelli and the other artists.
“Casadilego is astonishing for its intensity, the band on both sides of the stage is powerful”, he notes in these hours The Rest of the Pug.

Agnelli is the Alien, Casadilego plays the Girl

The Alien is Agnelli, while Casadilego plays the Girl. There is also the serial killer Valentine (Dario Battaglia), a neurotic housekeeper (Michela Lucenti) and three dancers.

“Agnelli holds the scene and interprets Bowie’s classics with measure, between covers and respectful rereadings. Only in the finale, in a majestic Heroes, becomes a singer and actor at the same time, showing himself fully. Casadilego, a lost mental image of a daughter left on a distant dying planet, reaches its climax by interpreting in an intimate key Life on Mars?. Michela Lucenti (Elly) is enthralling in a crackling Changes”, continues the symbolic newspaper of Bologna (first newspaper by circulation in Emilia-Romagna and Marche, as well as the seventh most circulated newspaper in Italy).

The rock opera written by David Bowie shortly before his death

Lazarus is the rock opera that David Bowie wrote shortly before his passing. The White Duke co-signed it with Irish playwright Enda Walsh. Manuel Agnelli plays the role of the alien Newton, the interstellar migrant de The man who fell to eartha novel written by Walter Trevis in 1963 and adapted to the big screen by Nicolas Roeg in 1976 (the film The Man Who Fell To Earth starred David Bowie himself). Manuel Agnelli then falls into the role that in the mid-70s had been played by Bowie.
The play includes David Bowie’s greatest hits, from Heroes to Life on Mars?from Changes to – of course – Lazarus. In fact, the song that gives its name to the rock opera could not be missing.

The soundtrack is composed entirely of classic songs from Bowie’s discography and four unreleased songs, composed specifically for the musical and then inserted into Blackstar and in the EP No plan. The unreleased songs (when the rock opera came out, i.e. in 2015) are Lazarus, No Plan, Killing A Little Time And When I Met You.

The world premiere of Lazarus was held in December 2015

Lazarus it was staged for the first time at the Theater Workshop in New York in December 2015. It was the last public appearance of David Bowie, who died a month later. Interviewed by the US edition of Rolling Stone in 2021, the director of the musical in its American version, Ivo Van Hove, told how the White Duke saw Lazarus as a priority, aware of the fact that he had little time left. “He had a great urgency right from the start. I wanted to postpone it due to calendar problems and he told me no, we should have done it immediately, that we should have succeeded. He already knew he was ill, unlike us, and therefore he had this urgency to bring the show to the stage. I really admired that a 68-year-old man had so much fire inside, such great artistic ambition to make something happen. It was really important to him,” said Ivo Van Hove.

The following year, in 2016, Lazarus debuted in London and the role of the alien protagonist was entrusted to Michael C. Hall, the actor famous for playing the serial killer Dexter in the television series of the same name.

The Italian version of Lazarus: the dates of the tour

Lazarus will remain on the bill in Cesena until March 26, after which it will go on tour with the following schedule:

• Teatro Storchi in Modena (from 29 March to 2 April),

• Galli Theater in Rimini (from 5 to 7 April),

• Teatro Argentina in Rome (from 12 to 23 April),

• Arena del Sole Theater in Bologna (from 26 to 30 April),

• Mercadante Theater in Naples (from 3 to 14 May),

• LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura in Lugano (from 18 to 20 May),

• Piccolo Teatro Strehler in Milan (from 23 to 28 May),

• Municipal Theater in Ferrara (from 1 to 3 June)

• Teatro Carignano in Turin (from 6 to 18 June).