“Here Lies Love” smashes through the 4th wall and creates a theatrical experience that can only be described as inspirational and profoundly thrilling.
The music is inventive and fantastical in ways that 99.5% of new musicals are not. More importantly, it sustains: there’s no 1 or 2 big numbers mixed in with long stretches of rote rhymes and predictable rhythms; there’s music. Real, inventive, infectious and architecturally invigorating music. (There’s one brief dry number about about the meeting of Ferdinand and Imelda that doesn’t quite take flight, but who cares when all the rest is so absolutely rich and superb.)
Narrative structure and character development are inviolable necessities in good theatre, and “Here Lies Love” doesn’t cheat in that regard. Despite any preconceived notions of Imelda Marcos you may harbor upon arrival, as the 90 minute event unfolds you are demanded to see this as a story not of the somewhat laughable icon presented by American media but of a woman. And her husband. And his rival. And other core characters who give humanity to the terrible as well as tabloid headlines.
(Don’t) Make me dance
The interactive staging — initially my main hesitation about going to see the show (I don’t like to be “forced” to dance) — is spot on and actually loads of fun. It has a brilliant effect of forcing you to associate more deeply with the characters and become part of the landscape of the Marcos’ lives so that by the time the finale arrives, you are *there*, fully.
It’s an ingenious show. But then, look at the creative team. What a collaboration.
And kudos of course to a phenomenal cast — the 3 leads were excellent: Ruthie Ann Miles, Jose Llana, Conrad Ricamora (extra star for you). Natalie Cortez as Aquino’s mother = wow, superb. Melody Butiu as Estrella = yes yes yes. Fantastic** ensemble and a great interactive crew.
Caveat emptor but Carpe diem
I’m cautious of superlatives because not everything is to everyone’s taste and what I think is great someonelse might think stinks. Therewith, some reference points from recent years to qualify my point of view:
- Spiderman: Didn’t care for it. Aside from a couple bits of good staging, it felt like an orphan with multiple personality disorder.
- Xanadu: Surprisingly, I really enjoyed it. Like eating whip cream laced with alcohol: a mindless high. Would I go again?…eh, no.
- Evita (w/ Ricky Martin and Elena Roger): I liked that they cast a gritty Argentinean in the lead role instead of a “safe” Broadway option. You could see her humanity. The staging was gorgeous, too.
As for Here Lies Love: Just go.