Seattle Repertory Theatre is going all out for its latest production, Here Lies Love. The Bagley Wright Theatre is being transformed into a discothèque, a la Studio 54. Techno beats dominate; the mirror ball spins and bodies gyrate to the story of Imelda Marcus and the People Power Revolution in the Philippines.
From the Public Theater and Off-Broadway in New York City to the London stage and now at Seattle Rep, the revamped production is helmed by the original Off-Broadway creative team. They have recreated the immersive elements for the Rep, where it will run April 7th to May 28th.
Here Lies Love features a couple dozen songs, music and lyrics by Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe Award-winning David Byrne (Talking Heads honcho) and Grammy Award and MTV Music Award winner and big-beat maestro Fatboy Slim, DJ, musician and record producer/mixer.
Within the dance club milieu, Byrne and Fatboy recreate the amazing journey of Filipina First Lady Imelda Marcos–from her troubled childhood, her beauty pageant days, her 11-day courtship and marriage to Ferdinand Marcos, her star power as First Lady, and her subsequent descent into infamy, disgrace and exile.
It’s not the first time a dictator’s wife has been profiled in a sung-through show. Comparisons to “Evita” are inevitable. However, the consensus of the critics is that “Here Lies Love” stands on its own.
Dubbed the “Steel Butterfly,” Imelda Marcos reigned as first lady of the Philippines for 20-plus years. She was known for her extravagant and opulent lifestyle, including her special love for shoes. While there’s no shoe fetish in this production, Imelda does change costumes 16 times in the 90-minute musical.
Here Lies Love is not a biography. Not a play. Not a traditional musical. It’s a poperetta with a sung-through style and minimal text.
The disco-driven production is an outlandish concept, inspired by an article Byrne read about the former beauty queen’s reputation for club-hopping. He wanted to create songs about and in the musical forms of what he calls “Imelda’s bubble world of the rich and powerful.”
It’s a 360-degree experience and environment. The actors are in constant motion; so is the audience. As the stage and the world turn, as a part of audience, you will spend most of the 90 minutes on their feet, smack in the middle of the action. At times, you will be invited to dance. Other times, ushers will move you along with the set pieces. Members of the ensemble will instruct you in Manila pop-style steps. And you may also find yourself on television, simulcast on the walls.
Alex Timbers directs. He is a two-time Tony-nominated director (“Peter and the Starcatcher” and “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson “). Timbers is also the co-creator of the Amazon series “Mozart in the Jungle,” the 2016 Golden Globe Award winner for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy.
A deejay spins the piped-in music to which the performers sing live. And brace yourself–it will be loud, thanks to 150 speakers scattered throughout the theater.
The cast features actors from previous productions of “Here Lies Love.” Conrad Ricamora and Melody Butiu reprise their roles from the original Off-Broadway cast as Ninoy Aquino and Estrella Cumpas. Mark Bautista from the London cast reprising his role as Ferdinand Marcos, and replacement actor Jaygee Macapugay reprises her role as Imelda Marcos from the Off-Broadway cast. You may have seen Macapugay on Broadway in “School of Rock,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “Miss Saigon.”
Word is that the production elements of “Here Lies Love” are spectacular. Annie-B Parson is choreographer, with set design by David Korins, costume design by Clint Ramos, lighting by Justin Townsend, sound by M. L. Dogg and Cody Spencer, and projections by Peter Nigrini.
If you want in on the disco action, buy tickets for the main floor section. But you won’t be seated; you will be standing for the entire show. It’s an opportunity to release your inner John Travolta with the hustle and the funky chicken. But if you have two left feet or dislike dancing, there are gallery and balcony seats available.
Warning: There will be NO LATE SEATING! Seattle Rep audiences have a bad habit of drifting in slowly, often delaying a show’s start as much as 15-20 minutes.
In case you’re wondering, the show’s title is taken from a comment made by Imelda viewing her husband Ferdinand Marcos’s embalmed body. She asked that the phrase “Here Lies Love” to be inscribed on her tombstone.
Here Lies Love runs April 7th through May 28th at Seattle Repertory Theatre. Tickets start at $65.00. Seattle Repertory Theatre Box Office at 206-443-2222 or toll-free at 877-900-9285, or go online at seattlerep.org. Discounted tickets for groups of 10+ may be purchased by calling 206-443-2224.