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Imelda, the Musical

May 27, 2014

Ruthie Ann Miles as Imelda in <em>Here Lies Love</em>, with director Alex Timbers (left) and composer David Byrne"Five years ago the renaissance pop musician/writer David Byrne decided to create a concept album about Imelda Marcos with Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita as one template and Imelda's adoration of disco music as another," reports Michael Strickland from New York.

"He collaborated with British DJ Fatboy Slim and had additional help with the music from Tom Gandey and J Pardo. The piece has meandered its way from stand-up concert and theatrical workshops to a full-blown production at the Public Theater called Here Lies Love, under the direction of Broadway director of the moment Alex Timbers.

"In the hyperactive, interactive staging by Director Timbers, the standing and dancing audience is herded around as the central stage is moved throughout the evening by a small army of pink jumpsuited, dancing supernumeraries. The audience is also instructed in basic disco dance routines at certain moments, and often the performers are clutching at them while singing inches away. I found myself at one point 'jumping to the sky' with Imelda on a stair step during the finale."

Strickland goes on with uncharacteristic total approval:

The show is highly recommended because it's never going to be this interesting again, unless you see it premiered in Metro Manila itself. Byrne's song cycle is characteristically brilliant, the performers are all superb, the stage director does everything but throw the kitchen sink at you, and the experience is strange, sweaty, intimate and loud (bring earplugs, particularly for the helicopter finale).

My favorite moment, oddly enough, is when all the multimedia stops, the amplification goes away, and a trio sing a new song by Byrne called “God Draws Straight,” a ballad about the day the Marcos regime was toppled, with lyrics taken from accounts by people who were there. And then we're back in the disco, singing "Here Lies Love" with Imelda, who by the way is still a congresswoman in The Philippines at age 83.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].