David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s off-Broadway hit gets a new sound.
Here Lies Love by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim began as a concept album. It grew into a song cycle and then a musical at the Public Theater premiering in 2013, and now it has been reborn again as a remix album. Featuring tracks remastered by Matt Stine and Justin Levine, the album expands on the club music that defines the musical, proving that Here Lies Love is far more than just a show.
"These Here Lies Love songs were made to be remixed," says show creator David Byrne. "Matt Stine and Justin Levine deconstructed the recorded music and scrambled it all kinds of ways to make an immersive audio world that merges seamlessly with the music of the show. This mixtape is what you hear when you enter the club environment where the show takes place. The best workout tape ever."
That's a lot for one album. After being asked to remix music from the show for in-theater use, Stine created a full song cycle of remixes, using music from the show and the cast album, and the new disc is a welcome companion to the star-studded original concept album. This go-around may not have Santigold or Florence of Florence + the Machine in it, but it does feature an in-depth understanding of the musical and the joy and energy underlying many of its numbers.
The show is based on the life of Filipina First Lady Imelda Marcos, and her love for disco and club music served as the inspiration for Here Lies Love. Marcos may have a complicated and ambiguous history, but The Remix Collection is out to do good: all proceeds will be donated to Gawad Kalinga, a charity dedicated to typhoon relief and ending poverty in the Philippines for five million families by 2024.
Imelda Marcos and her husband President Ferdinand Marcos are historically quite polarizing figures. While their regime imposed martial law on the Philippines and was implicated in the assassination of prominent dissidents, Imelda in particular hid her modest childhood and lived in excess, traveling Europe and owning a collection of more than a thousand pairs of shoes. When the Marcoses were airlifted out of the country in 1986, for many it seemed like a relief.
Here Lies Love takes a very different approach to Imelda's life. For much of the show, she is young and idealistic, interested only in love and her husband's vision of the country. If anything, it is too superficial; for such a fascinating figure in the history of the Philippines, there must have been more going on than parties and breakups.
The last section of the play, once revolution breaks out and the story extends beyond Imelda, is the most gripping and engaging portion. Now, we have a new protagonist: Ninoy Aquino, Imelda's first love and now her husband's primary political opponent. As Ninoy encounters difficulties that Marcos in his campaign never dealt with, governmental corruption takes its toll, and he ends up in jail, the lowest of the low in contrast to Imelda's shining success. But at what cost?
What makes Here Lies Love unique, however, is not its story so much as its innovative staging. The theater is a nightclub in all its glory, where the scenes are performed all around you and the platforms even move into a variety of different arrangements. While much of that movement is arguably unnecessary, and you will get pushed by the stage crew if you don't move out of the way fast enough, the versatility of the stages is astounding.
With pulsating disco music, frequent and elaborate costume changes and an ensemble of backup dancers, this show is all about the spectacle. Certain technical effects, such as the live video recording of media interviews during the Marcos senate and presidential campaigns and the incorporation of actual historical footage, is very well done, and the comical masks of Nixon and the other Western world leaders are a nice touch.
This celebratory club atmosphere is sometimes sincere and sometimes a parody of itself, such as when the audience is urged into performing a line dance as soon as Ninoy Aquino is exiled from his home. Early songs from the musical, meanwhile, such as "Here Lies Love" and "The Rose of Tacloban," have a simple sweetness to them, a strong contrast from the later choral laments like "Order 1081." Almost the entire show is danced, usually with a full chorus, adding to the sense of being in a dance club and of collective storytelling.
Is the story of Here Lies Love dumbed down for a younger, non-Filipino audience who doesn't know the history? Perhaps. I am sure there is far more to the tale than Imelda would ever acknowledge. But in bringing a piece of history many people don't know to the New York stage and exposing audiences who have never experienced interactive theater to everything a modern musical can be, the show definitely has crowd approval. A closing date for the musical has recently been announced, so if there is any time to see Here Lies Love, it's now.
Here Lies Love plays at the Public Theater through January 3. For more information, check out their website.
This article was previously published on CHARGED.fm.