Wishes don’t always come true, but in cases when they do, sheer happiness abounds. Last year’s “Best of 2013 Theater” by Manhattan Digest included a plea that Here Lies Love find a home. Approximately one year ago it was one of the hottest theater events in town. After numerous extensions at the Public Theater, it finally had to end its run. Producers scurried to find an appropriate space and there was much scuttlebutt in online chat rooms and throughout the industry about its’ future. But as Axl Rose gently reminded us, “All we need is just a little patience.”
How right you were, Mr. Rose. One year later, the dancing and decadence has returned to the same space and it is brighter than before- literally. Justin Townsend’s lighting is likely to make the CEO of the electric company a very content man, which is mighty fine for a show about such luminous and at times, polarizing politicians.
Here Lies Love is a 90- minute, intermission-less musical which chronicles the rise and fall of Filipino first lady, Imelda Marcos and her husband Ferdinand. It opens with a young Imelda (Ruthie Ann Miles) singing about her childhood in Leyte, which mostly consisted of “hand-me-downs and dresses made of scrap”. While there is a pluckiness and determination about her, the Lady from Leyte met a would-be, aspiring President (Jose Llana) while she was a contestant in a beauty pageant. Together, they would climb the ladder of power only to watch it sink like quicksand a few years later. Prophetically she knew at an early age that she would rise above her economic status and become destined for greatness- even if it meant the sacrifice of her “forever friend ”, Estrella (Melody Butiu), who would become Marcos’ maid. Like any politician, fighting foes and battling the opposition are politics as usual; hush money is paid, threats are made, and the wealthy and powerful continue to gain.
Imelda’s rise was a quick and sometimes ruthless one. Yet she is neither demonized nor sainted in this immersive, dance friendly history lesson. Audience members stand for the duration and are encouraged to participate at certain periods. With the constant motion of the moving stages, it is not only a suggestion but rather a requirement. With David Byrne and DJ Fatboy Slim’s transcendent score, you’ll effortlessly find that your body has been captured by the infectious melodies.
Most of the talent that made this a hit in the first place have remained with the cast. Director Alex Timbers, choreographer Annie B Parsons, and the fellow members of their artistic team have maintained a bona fide work of brilliance. The word genius is all too often bantered about. In this case, it is perfectly justified. While other new “toys” are gleaming in theaters around town, this downtown diamond will outshine most anything else on the boards.
Here Lies Love is now playing at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. Tickets available online at www.herelieslove.com, at the box office, or by calling 212-967-7555.