Imelda's Turn! Former First Lady of the Philippines Gets Her Own Musical in Here Lies Love

By Harry Haun
03 Apr 2013

Ruthie Ann Miles
The lady being dissected is portrayed by Ruthie Ann Miles, from Avenue Q and the tour of Annie, and Imelda's husband, Ferdinand, is played by Jose Llana, in a big leap from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee to Philippine President.

Melody Butiu performs a third character, Imelda's childhood friend Estrella Cumpas, who, says Timbers, "really figured hugely on the album and is still an important character in our show, but our show is a little more weighed toward a political plot.

"Conrad Ricamora is Benigno Aquino Jr., who doesn't appear much on the album but is major to our show since a third of the score is new. He was opposition leader to the Marcoses — and was Imelda's first love. She lost her virginity to him, they broke up, and the Marcoses had him imprisoned. Ultimately, he was assassinated.

"It's Shakespearean if you think about it — the House of Aquino versus the House of Marcos. Aquino dated Imelda, then led this opposition movement and was thrown in prison. Imelda released him to America, but he came back and was killed. Then his widow, Corazon Aquino, ran for president and was elected. Now, Imelda is back to the Philippines — in the House of Representatives — and the Aquinoes and the Marcoses are still two of the Philippines most important political families."

Timbers is an uptown guy and a downtown guy, comfortably straddling worlds, with two Obie Awards and two Tony nominations to prove it. With Here Lies Love he merges both.

"I did a 2006 show called Hell House that turned St. Ann's Warehouse into a 15,000-square-foot, walk-through haunted-house tour. With Here Lies Love, the audience stands for the whole time. There's no dialogue, and the action takes place all around you as you move through a theatrical space. It's as if the show is taking place in a club. It's big-tent musical theatre — with a real left-of-center approach to the story."

You don't have to just stand around either. Dancing is encouraged. "As someone who has directed a lot of drag theatre in the past — and knows what the horrors of audience interaction are — I can promise you that this is one of those things where anybody can't be put in the spotlight or made to feel uncomfortable. It's like if you want to join in, that's great; if you don't, that's fine, too. What I love about this show — it's just like David himself — is that it's a real mix of downtown and uptown."