Off-Broadway's Public Theater is presenting the world premiere of "Here Lies Love", a new musical that features music from David Byrne and Fatboy Slim. Time Out New York's David Cote filed the following report for NY1.
As frontman for the great post-punk band Talking Heads, David Byrne pioneered a funky-jittery style that combined groovy hooks with acute paranoia. More than 30 years later, this mash-up of the weird and the cool recurs in Byrne's ecstatic and dynamic first musical, about the rise and fall of former Filipino first lady Imelda Marcos. Unfortunately, we have no video or music, just photos, so take my word for it: "Here Lies Love" is one of the most exciting, complex musicals of the season.
Director Alex Timbers' immersive, environmental staging of Byrne's score, which began as a bookless concept album released in 2010, turns the Public Theater's LuEsther space into a crowded discotheque, with audiences standing around movable platforms as actors dance and sing above.
Byrne's songs, with lyrics cribbed from actual quotes and augmented by sassy beats from English musician Fatboy Slim, chart the rise of Imelda from childhood poverty to right-hand woman of strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled and looted the Philippines for more than 20 years. Ruthie Ann Miles and Jose Llana play the dictator team with a blend of white-hot charisma and cold-blooded narcissism.
Since the real Imelda loved disco and New York’s '70s nightlife, Byrne fills the score with funky, danceable numbers, given vibrant life by choreographer Annie-B Parson. Timbers and his crackerjack designers provide historical background with documentary video and a sprinkling of found text. The picture that emerges shows a power couple - one deeply corrupt, the other highly corruptible - who exploited their people better than any imperialist power ever could.
The title "Here Lies Love" comes from a phrase that Imelda, a schmaltzy demagogue, said could be her epitaph. She loved her people so much, she embezzled billions from them. I think her syntax was off. What she really meant is: Here, love's a lie.