Not only the best show currently on Broadway but also the most important, “Here Lies Love,” which began as a 2010 concept album by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, tells the astounding and true story of Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos — brutal right-wing autocrats who ruled the Philippines from 1965 to 1986.
In bringing the show to Broadway (after previous regional and off-Broadway productions), director Alex Timbers and his co-creators have transformed the Broadway Theater into a massive discotheque, complete with a dance floor that replaces the theater’s orchestra section.
Through multiple video screens that project the action on stage interspersed with actual archival photos and video, the all-Filipino cast (a Broadway first) brings the story to life in a completely original and thoroughly thrilling way.
The action happens literally everywhere, and the audience — not just those standing on the dance floor around a rotating platform, but also those of us in the cheap seats — are summoned to dance at various times through the show. And we enthusiastically comply.
The cast, including Arielle Jacobs in a powerhouse performance as Imelda, Jose Llana as a sly and (historically inaccurately) sexy President Marcos, and Conrad Ricamora as an earnest Ninoy Aquino — the opposition leader ultimately murdered by the Marcoses — all deliver the gorgeous karaoke-style score with strength and style. But it’s Lea Salonga, as Aquino’s grieving mother, Aurora, who packs the greatest emotional wallop with her late-in-the-show performance of “Just Ask the Flowers.”
At the end of it all, Moses Villarama, who serves as house DJ and narrator, solemnly reminds the audience that, incredibly, the current president of the Philippines is Bongbong Marcos — the son of the couple who wrought so much terror on the island nation.
“History repeats itself,” he tells us. “Democracies all over the world, including here in America, are under threat.”
There’s never been a more important time for that reminder.