For Filipino Audiences, ‘Here Lies Love’ Offers Emotional Rip Currents

Disco balls were spinning, club music was pulsing, and some Filipinos were crying on the dance floor.

It was a Saturday night at a Broadway theater. “Here is love” The David Byrne and Fatboy Slim musical, which follows the rise and fall of former Filipino couple Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos, was gearing up to open on Broadway on July 20. Filipino-American audiences are increasing at preview screenings. They were fascinated by the opportunity to witness the history of the nation and, in some cases, the family being told on stage so close they could literally touch it.

Earl Delphine, 35, who lives in Manhattan, said he had “never been in a play where there was a personal connection to the story.” “For the first time, I felt like I was on stage in New York,” he said.

He added that the opening scene made him emotional. “And of course I danced.”

“Here Lies Love,” which opened to critics’ raves and sold-out crowds at the downtown Public Theatre, in 2013, made its way to Broadway after stints in London and Seattle, each time expanding the theater and bringing it to life. We are fine-tuning the performance that is full of emotion. But this time, for the first time, a wholly Filipino cast has been added. This is the first time on Broadway, organizers say.Filipino Producers, including Tony Award Winners, Also Participate Lea SalongaPulitzer Prize-winning author Jose Antonio Vargascomedian Joe Coy and Grammy-winning musician HER, and an investor from Manila.

“I just felt a responsibility to be fully involved with my country,” said the costume designer and creative consultant. Clint Ramos, a native of Cebu, Philippines, has been working on the show since its inception. He is also a producer now.

“Not only the cultural capital from the motherland, but also the financial capital from the motherland, it feels like the show’s authorship and ownership are firmly tied together. And it feels great,” he said.

The show’s narrative framework has not changed. The former First Lady Imelda still taps into the disco sheen of Studio 54’s resident disco, reflecting the Marcos’ dizzying rise to power and the glittering allure of privilege and wealth. The couple spent the nation in huge debts and ended up living in luxury while voters struggled.

Ariel JacobsA new addition to the cast, Imelda plays the journey from naive beauty pageant to sentimental megalomaniac. A signature song plays, but that’s the focus of the story. Jose Lana Replay Ferdinand from the masses. The path from charismatic leader to presidential tyrant is much shorter. “If they want to boo Marcos,” Llana said of the crowd. “I think I did the right job then.”

There are no books. The action is driven by Byrne’s soaring tune (with a beat by Fatboy Slim) and frenzied choreography by Byrne’s frequent collaborator Annie B. Person. It will be hosted by DJ (Moses Villarama).

Ramos said that while the creative team considered large-scale light fixtures and costume changes every day, they also wondered, “Am I seeing history right here?”

The challenge, conceived by Byrne who wanted his audience to experience limitless power in a nightlife setting, is a formidable one. “How do you combine joy and tragedy?” director Alex Timbers said in a joint interview with Ramos.

Broadway theaters were redesigned to create dance clubs instead of stages. A mobile platform carries the performers while standing audiences surround them on the floor. The catwalk brings the actors within reach of those sitting above them. The choreography encourages the audience to interact with the cast, swaying alongside the cast in her dance, and playing the role of a believer at a political rally. Moments of civic joy and surging camaraderie are shown on giant screens throughout the space. Alongside darker real news footage and transcripts.

Eliza Caballero, a fan from San Francisco, was almost trembling with joy as she sang and bopped along to the score. The experience of being surrounded by actors and telling this local story felt almost surreal, like being part of the show. “But it was also very moving,” he said. “It’s best sitting on the floor, especially for Filipino-Americans. It adds even more depth.”

The cast said the untranslated moment in which Imelda curses Ferdinand in Tagalog got more steady laughs on Broadway than downtown. (This work has Giselle Tonghi, a cultural and community liaison, who organizes events for the Filipino community. According to the organizers, even on a normal night, they can directly interact with the Marcos and Aquino families. It is said that participants who have exchanges have gathered.)

Salonga, the first Asian woman to win a Tony Award (1991 for Miss Saigon), will guest star this summer as Aurora Aquino, the mother of Ferdinand’s arch-enemy Benigno Aquino Jr. It is the first time in her long career that she will play her role written as Filipino.

When I saw a performance of Here Lies Love a few years ago, an instinctive memory of my childhood in Manila during the reign of the Marcos family came to my mind. In which he felt overwhelming to play. “I’m going down in history,” Salonga said.

While researching this section, she spoke to friends of the Aquino family. (Beniño’s widow, Corazon C. Aquino, succeeded Marcos as president.) During rehearsals for her song, she said, “Oh my God, when I was about to sing this song, how did I do it?” Should I keep my emotions in check?” I thought. She said in her phone interview: She said, “Her friends texted me and said, ‘How can you not cry when you’re doing this?

For second-generation Filipino-Americans whose families prioritized assimilation, knowing the story of their homeland was a different kind of revelation. “Growing up, the only thing I really knew about Imelda was her shoe collection,” Jacobs said. “This part of Filipino culture and being exposed to the resilience of the Filipino people was an awakening for me.

Here Lies Love hits Broadway in a political and social climate that has changed significantly since its premiere during the Obama administration. Timbers and Ramos noted that the rapid collapse of democracy that the film portrays is imminent around the world. Ferdinand’s habit of exaggerating or blatantly falsifying his successes is part of the dictator’s strategy. The record of him flirting with a star player also has a familiar ring to it. Ferdinand and Imelda’s son, known as Bonbon, is the current president of the Philippines. (Imelda, now 94, returned to politics after her husband’s death in 1989, and she served three terms in the House of Representatives.)

Developing the project with protean ex-talking head Byrne, the creative team struggled to avoid glorifying Ferdinand, who silenced critics with mass arrests during the 1972-1981 martial law regime. bottom. Aquino’s airport assassination after returning from exile in the United States in 1983 marked a turning point in revitalizing the anti-Marcos movement and the emotional rip current of “Here Lies Love.”

Conrad Ricamora, who played the boyish Aquino (a.k.a. Ninoy) in three of the four films, immediately recognized his credit. On Broadway, the audience makes Laban signs. This is an inverted L-like hand gesture. This word means “battle” and was popularized by Ninoy. “If you look at people who have done heroic deeds throughout history, they do so because they are in deep contact with their own humanity and the humanity of others,” Ricamora said.

The show continues to be criticized for minimizing Imelda’s political prowess by spotlighting a couple known for their ruthless corruption. (website In a statement, the producers said their new binational group had come together “at a time of necessary and welcome appraisal of who is telling what story”, with the participation of people with lived experience of this era. said to be more influential. The program is “with truthfulness.”

For nearly 20 cast members (8 of whom are making Broadway debuts), this is a rare chance to revisit and revisit a past that’s barely visible in the rear-view mirror together.

Ramos calls himself a “martial law baby” who was raised during Marcos’ most brutal time. In February 1986, when the couple peacefully deposed in a four-day protest known as the People Power Revolution, he was even “on top of the tank” as an elementary school student. “I went through the entire administration,” he said. He moved to the US for graduate school in his late 90’s.

Lyana’s family landed in New York in 1979, when he was three years old. His parents were student activists fleeing martial law. “It’s been really cathartic for me to be on this show for the last ten years,” he said. “Because it wasn’t necessarily what his parents talked about.”

When he first heard about the show, he wanted to play Aquino. “I couldn’t be more proud of my parents.” Instead, he was asked to read for Ferdinand. When he got the role, he said he had an awkward conversation with his family and told the creative team he was going to step down if his work flattered the dictator.

Still, he said, as an actor, you need to find humanity in your characters. “And I think maybe we’re humanizing them when people start to criticize us sometimes. But if you want them to be held responsible, humanize people.” I have to.”

Lyana’s castmates call him “Kuya”. This is a Tagalog term for an older brother or older male cousin and is a term of endearment. For him, the addition of a Filipino producer meant a lot, even though he has been with the show for many years. “Knowing that Filipinos were in control gave us a sense of security that as artists we could do our job,” he said.

Like Salonga, he has played various ethnicities, none of which are Filipino.

“I feel like all ethnic groups owe me an apology. I feel sorry for being cast,” Salonga said. “But things were very different back then.”

She hoped that just putting such a complex, multi-layered story on Broadway, just like a dance party, could inspire and empower. She said, “I want other communities of color to see ‘Here Lies Love’ and be able to say, ‘We can do it.’ We have stories to tell.” We can make this happen.”

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