On The Scene: ‘Here Lies Love’ musical makes history as 1st-ever all Filipino cast to perform on Broadway
The Broadway musical "Here Lies Love" gets its title from the words former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos suggested should be written on her tombstone.
Marcos was a glamorous, party-loving, jet-setter with a penchant for clubs and disco. And that is why "Here Lies Love" is set in that very environment-a disco. The seats on the main floor of the Broadway Theatre have been removed to accommodate several hundred standing audience members under a shimmering disco ball. A platform extends through the crowd and is moved from side to side - the crowd with it - as performers sing and dance face to face at times with the audience.
"Whenever a populist dictator is coming to power it feels like a party," says Arielle Jacobs, who plays Imelda Marcos. "It feels like you're getting swept up in the moment. And that's what the show gives you."
This musical also makes history as the first-ever all-Filipino cast to perform on Broadway. Former Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos is played by Jose Llana, who was born in the Philippines when Marcos was still in power. His family fled amid human rights abuses by the regime and after Marcos imposed martial law.
"My parents knew that not only was it a restrictive way to live, they were very fearful because they had friends who were being picked up by the police and just disappearing," says Llana, who was 3 years old when his family came to America.
Jacobs is the daughter of a Filipino American mother. She says the show makes her think of her family's journey from the Philippines. "My grandfather was a Philippine scout in World War II, and he dreamed of bringing my family to America. I feel like I can be here on American soil but sharing the Philippines where we came from to the people here. And I think that for me, I'm fulfilling his dream."
After more than two decades in power, the Marcos regime was overthrown in 1986 and the couple fled to Hawaii. Three thousand pairs of shoes belonging to Imelda Marcos were discovered left behind, along with many fur coats and other luxury items that were seen as examples of graft and excess.
Ferdinand Marcos died in Hawaii in 1989. Imelda Marcos later returned to the Philippines, where the son of the now 94-year-old Marcos, Bongbong, was elected president in 2022.
The music of "Here Lies Love" is written by rock and pop icon David Byrne and famed producer Fatboy Slim.