Here Lies Love is not yet on Broadway but it's already causing conversation. Shrouded in neon lights, flashy costumes, and an electrifying disco score is the story of Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos—who with her husband, Ferdinand Marcos, governed the Philippines for two decades in a dictatorship that violated human rights and devastated the country with immense debt. With music written by David Byrne of The Talking Heads and English DJ Fatboy Slim, the upcoming Broadway musical explores the Marcos' "rise and fall into infamy."
Yet, with the show opening on Broadway just one year after Ferdinand Marcos Jr brought the Marcos family back into power by winning the presidency in the Philippines, criticism is already resurfacing surrounding the production.
Here Lies Love originally ran Off-Broadway at the Public Theater in 2013, before running at the National Theater in London in 2014, and the Seattle Rep in 2017. Each production was met with a variety of responses. Many praised the show's immersive staging and thought-provoking psychological deep-dive into the thrills of power (and compared the show to Evita).
But others cautioned against the glossed-over picture of a power-hungry regime. Following the show's 2017 run in Seattle, 1776 star Sara Porkalob published an essay describing those concerns in further depth, writing: "Here Lies Love paints a glossy veneer over the Philippines’ national trauma and America’s role in it. No amount of disco can repair that."
Upon the announcement of Here Lies Love's run on Broadway, reactions on social media reignited these conversations. In response, the official Here Lies Love Broadway accounts on Twitter and Instagram published a response to critics of the show.
The lengthy statement contained a brief description of the show's plot, and explained the production's intentions in portraying this vulnerable moment in Filipino history onstage in 2023, stating: "History repeats itself. Democracies all over the world are under threat. The biggest threat to any democracy is disinformation, Here Lies Love offers a creative way of re-information — an innovative template on how to stand up to tyrant. We cannot tell the modern history of the Philippines without the United States. They’re intertwined."
The statement also notes that Here Lies Love denounces the reign of the Marcos family, writing: "Here Lies Love is an Anti-Marcos show. It is a pro-Filipino show, being told in a quintessential American form: the Broadway musical. Two cultures, two histories, continuing a centuries-old complicated dance."
In response to the social media posts, actors Conrad Ricamora and Jose Llana (who both starred in the Off Broadway production of Here Lies Love) expressed their support. Ricamora commented on Instagram with a string of heart emojis and Llana responded with the word, "YES!"
Two of Here Lies Love's producers have also released statements. Said Jose Antonio Vargas, one of the show’s producers, to Variety: “Filipinos are among the largest immigrant groups in America—and also among the most invisible culturally, despite the two nations’ shared colonial histories. While the Asian diaspora can no longer be denied in American popular culture, Filipinas and Filipinos remain woefully outside the spotlight. I’m thrilled to help break barriers on what has historically been an exclusive stage: Broadway.” Vargas is Filipino and is the founder of the immigration organization Define American.
Tony winner Clint Ramos, who is also Here Lies Love's costume designer, also added, "Exciting lessons are often learned through uniquely surprising works of art. And nothing is more surprising than the way Here Lies Love vibrantly and creatively sheds light on a crucial part of Philippine history. Jose and I are so proud to help bring forth this singularly original show."
Here Lies Love will begin performances at the Broadway Theatre June 17 with opening night July 20.
See the complete Here Lies Love social media statement below.