For Tony winner Lea Salonga, the first time she saw David Byrne's musical Here Lies Love, her response was, "Wow, what is this?!" Salonga saw the show when it was at the National Theatre in London. And now she's starring in it for its Broadway bow. The musical, about the rise and fall of former First Lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos, began previews at the Broadway Theatre June 17 (where it was a sold-out performance). The show opens July 20. See the video above to watch Salonga and the cast of Here Lies Love discuss how the show intersects with their own family history and what audiences can expect from the show.
Here Lies Love features the first fully-Filipino cast in a Broadway musical, and many of the cast members were born in the Philippines and immigrated abroad when they were young (including Salonga herself). "I was born in the Philippines in 1976. My family left the Philippines in '79," says Jose Llana, who plays former Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos.
Adds Conrad Ricamora (who plays Ninoy Aquino, who protests the reign of the Marcoses), "We've usually done productions of Miss Saigon and The King and I. We've not been able to tell a Filipino story...this story directly relates to my family."
Arielle Jacobs, whose mother is the from the Philippines, says that after playing Princess Jasmine in Aladdin and Nina in In the Heights on Broadway, Imelda is "the most complex character that I've ever had the chance to dive into."
See photos of the cast of Here Lies Love below.
Leading the cast of Here Lies Love is Arielle Jacobs as Imelda Marcos opposite Jose Llana as Ferdinand Marcos. 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.
Lea Salonga will play Aurora Aquino, Ninoy Aquino's mother, in a limited guest engagement July 11-August 13. Following her run, guest stars from the Philippines will take over the role. It's an important moment in the Tony and Olivier winner's career as it marks her first time playing a Filipino role on the Main Stem while she also gains her first Broadway producing credit. Returning to the Broadway Theatre will also be a homecoming for Salonga, who made her Broadway debut there in 1991 as Éponine in Les Misérables shortly before starring in Miss Saigon in the same theatre.
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.
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.
The immersive staging of the musical 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 LoveBroadway 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. Read more here.
Here Lies Love was recently embroiled in another controversy after it officially revealed a plan to perform to only pre-recorded tracks last month. 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 Lovehad 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, 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.