Legendary musician David Byrne stopped by Late Night with Seth Meyers October 5, marking one of the first theatrical returns to late night television since the end of the WGA strike.
While on the show, Byrne shared the unexpected origins of his musical Here Lies Love, now playing at the Broadway Theatre. Check out video of the interview above.
"Way back in the day, I'd been to some discos, but I usually just went to see if there was a musical act performing," Byrne explains. "The acts who had club hits in those days would come into the disco, stand on a little platform, put in a tape that had their backing tracks of their song, and just sing their two hits, and they'd be gone. And I thought, 'But what if they could do more? What if you could do a whole evening and tell a story that way while the audience is dancing?'"
Byrne's interest soon ballooned. "What if you can have an audience that's only half paying attention?' Somehow that appealed to me. Because I thought 'They'll absorb it. They'll absorb the story. They don't have to be just paying attention every second.'" The idea fell to the wayside for decades before a chance encounter with a photograph brought it back to the forefront of Byrne's mind. "Years later, I read that Imelda Marcos loved going to clubs. She had a mirror ball installed in her New York townhouse... So, I googled that up and saw a video of her dancing under her home mirror ball with Khashoggi, the arms dealer. And I thought, 'She lives in this world that I've been thinking about, if there could be a show that way. And look who she's dancing with! There's a story here.'"
Here Lies Love transforms the real story of Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos into an immersively-staged disco musical. The immersive staging of the musical transforms the Broadway Theatre into a disco dance club complete with a performance catwalk and "satellite stages." It also features 360-degree lighting and video screens as part of the design.
Arielle Jacobs stars as Imelda Marcos opposite Jose Llana as Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda's husband and 10th president of the Philippines who ruled as dictator for 20 years until 1986. Completing the leading trio is Conrad Ricamora as Ninoy Aquino, a Philippine senator who critiqued the Marcos family during its regime until his assassination in 1983. His murder sparked the People Power Revolution which resulted in the removal of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos from power.
The all-Filipino cast, a first for Broadway, also includes Broadway alums Melody Butiu (Doctor Zhivago), Jaygee Macapugay (Shucked), Julia Abueva (KPOP), Aaron Alcaraz (Mean Girls), Kristina Doucette (Wicked), Jeigh Madjus (Moulin Rouge!), Geena Quintos (Miss Saigon), Shea Renne (Hadestown), and Angelo Soriano (Aladdin), as well as Moses Villarama, Jasmine Forsberg, Reanne Acasio, Renée Albulario, Carol Angeli, Nathan Angelo, Roy Flores, Timothy Matthew Flores, Sarah Kay, and Aaron "AJ" Mercado. For many, the show is personal as several of them and their families lived in the Philippines when the Marcos family was in power.
Returning to the project from the original Off-Broadway run are Alex Timbers (Moulin Rouge) and choreographer Annie-B Parson. They are joined on the creative team by music director J. Oconer Navarro, Tony-nominated scenic designer David Korins, Tony-winning costume designer Clint Ramos, Tony-winning lighting designer Justin Townsend, sound designers M.L. Dogg and Cody Spencer, Tony-nominated projection designer Peter Nigrini, and cultural and community liaison Giselle “G” Töngi. Casting is by Tara Rubin, Xavier Rubiano, and Gail Quintos. Bobby Garcia served as casting consultant. General management will be by Foresight Theatrical. Tom Gandey and J Pardo have also contributed additional music for the production.