The reviews are rolling in for Here Lies Love, which opened at the Broadway Theatre July 20 after beginning previews June 17. The immersively-staged disco musical transforms the real story of Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos with a score by Grammy, Tony, and Oscar winner David Byrne and Grammy winner Fatboy Slim, and concept and lyrics by Byrne.
Arielle Jacobs stars as Imelda Marcos opposite Jose Llana as Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda's husband and 10th president of the Philippines who ruled as dictator for 20 years until 1986. Completing the leading trio is Conrad Ricamora as Ninoy Aquino, a Philippine senator who critiqued the Marcos family during its regime until his assassination in 1983. His murder sparked the People Power Revolution which resulted in the removal of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos from power. Both Llana and Ricamora reprise their performances from the musical's 2013 Off-Broadway run.
Tony and Olivier winner Lea Salonga plays Aurora Aquino, Ninoy Aquino's mother, in a limited guest engagement through August 13. Following her run, guest stars from the Philippines will take over the role. The all-Filipino cast, a first for Broadway, also includes Broadway alums Melody Butiu (Doctor Zhivago), Jaygee Macapugay (Shucked), Julia Abueva (KPOP), Aaron Alcaraz (Mean Girls), Kristina Doucette (Wicked), Jeigh Madjus (Moulin Rouge!), Geena Quintos (Miss Saigon), Shea Renne (Hadestown), and Angelo Soriano (Aladdin), as well as Moses Villarama, Jasmine Forsberg, Reanne Acasio, Renée Albulario, Carol Angeli, Nathan Angelo, Roy Flores, Timothy Matthew Flores, Sarah Kay, and Aaron "AJ" Mercado. For many, the show is personal as several of them and their families lived in the Philippines when the Marcos family was in power.
Returning to the project are original director Alex Timbers (Moulin Rouge) and choreographer Annie-B Parson. They are joined on the creative team by music director J. Oconer Navarro, Tony-nominated scenic designer David Korins, Tony-winning costume designer Clint Ramos, Tony-winning lighting designer Justin Townsend, sound designers M.L. Dogg and Cody Spencer, Tony-nominated projection designer Peter Nigrini, and cultural and community liaison Giselle “G” Töngi. Casting is by Tara Rubin, Xavier Rubiano, and Gail Quintos. Bobby Garcia served as casting consultant. General management will be by Foresight Theatrical. Tom Gandey and J Pardo have also contributed additional music for the production.
Read the reviews here.
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Playbill will continue to update this list as reviews come in.
The immersive staging of the Here Lies Love transforms the Broadway Theatre into a disco dance club complete with a performance catwalk and "satellite stages." It also features 360-degree lighting and video screens as part of the design.
Developed over the past decade since its original 2013 Off-Broadway run at The Public, Here Lies Love ran at the National Theater in London in 2014 and Seattle Rep in 2017. Each production was met with a variety of responses, and conversations have cropped up again on social media as attention returns to the musical with the upcoming Broadway run. In response to online criticism, the official Here Lies Love Broadway accounts on Twitter and Instagram published a lengthy statement that included the production's intentions in portraying this vulnerable moment in Filipino history onstage in 2023. Additionally, Salonga and Jacobs both spoke about why they stand by the show in this interview with Playbill.
Despite the controversy, the production and Salonga's star power have drawn fans to the Broadway Theatre with some even sneaking backstage to see the Tony winner. Salonga spoke out about the issue and asked fans to respect her privacy and boundaries. Read more here.
Here Lies Love was also embroiled in another controversy after it officially revealed a plan to perform to only pre-recorded tracks. The move would have been a historic first for a full Broadway musical. American Federation of Musicians steadfastly opposed the plan. the production and the union recently came to an agreement which includes hiring 12 musicians from the Local 802 of American Federation of Musicians to play performances. Nine of these musicians are new hires as Here Lies Love had already planned on using three actor-musicians, who have had to become members of Local 802 as part of the agreement. Read more about the compromise between Here Lies Love and American Federation of Musicians here.
Here Lies Love is produced by Hal Luftig, Patrick Catullo, Diana DiMenna and Plate Spinner Productions, Clint Ramos, and Jose Antonio Vargas. Aaron Lustbader serves as executive producer. Also serving on the producing team are H.E.R., Lea Salonga, Bobby Garcia, Giselle “G” Töngi, Celia Kaleialoha Kenney, Jo Koy, Girlie Rodis, Miranda Gohh, Rob Laqui, Georgina Pazcoguin, Don Michael H. Mendoza/Lora Nicolas Olaes, Adam Hyndman, LaChanze, Yasuhiro Kawana, Triptyk Studios, Iris Smith, Shira Friedman, James L. Nederlander, John Gore Organization, Kevin Connor, Andrew Diamond/Patrick Trettenero, Craig Balsam, Elizabeth Armstrong, Cathy Dantchik, Wendy Federman/Suzanne Niedland, Luke Katler/Ryan Solomon, Laura Ivey/Janet Brenner, Alexi Melvin, Warner Music Entertainment, Eastern Standard Time, The Shubert Organization, and Hunter Arnold/TBD Theatricals.