Original Cast CD Review: HERE LIES LOVE (Nonesuch)

Post image for Original Cast CD Review: HERE LIES LOVE (Nonesuch)

by Tony Frankel on June 20, 2014



Move over Evita, there’s another Queen of Hearts in town. And she likes diamonds too. I’m talking about Imelda Marcos—she of the thousand pairs of shoes—who is the centerpiece of a dazzling new pop operetta by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim. It’s currently the hottest ticket in New York. Now, the cast album of Here Lies Love (which is what Imelda said she wanted inscribed on her tombstone) has been released as a 2-CD set, which includes an iridescent 80-page full color book with lyrics, credits, and two essays about the creation of the piece by Byrne.

Ruthie-Ann-Miles-center-and-the-cast-in-HERE-LIES-LOVE-at-The-Public-Theatre.Before being retooled as a rock musical at The Public Theater, the disco-beat song cycle was originally released as a concept album with 22 tracks in 2010, sung by a contrasting ensemble of alt-rock and songstress celebrities, including Nellie McKay, Cyndi Lauper, Tori Amos, Martha Wainwright, Natalie Merchant, and the B-52’s Kate Pierson. From the beginning, however, Byrne imagined this as a musical theatre piece to be performed in disco and nightclub settings, replicating the globe-trotting Marcos’ taste for such tony locations as Studio 54. For Alex Timber’s Off-Broadway production, starring Ruthie Ann Miles and Jose Llana as Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos, a few songs were eliminated but 7 more were added; the new CD has 26 tracks.

Imelda called herself a “Star and Slave” to the Philippine people. No wonder she’s captured media attention since she was a teenager. The woman has an ego so inflated that it positively floats, and she talks in sound bites: quasi-poetic, sentimental, and outrageous. Byrne makes great use of some of her quirkiest byrne-here-lies-love-pkg-shot-338x300comments as song lyrics, consummately setting them to an encyclopedic variety of irresistibly toe-tapping music ranging from disco, funk, and zouk to house and dubstep.

At first listen, Original Cast Album aficionados may want to poo-poo this dance party, wondering why lyrics rarely rhyme and phrases are repeated well after we’ve gotten the point. Melodies come and go, and that dance beat can be so damn consistent that you may feel compelled to turn down the bass. Don’t. The musical was envisioned as a big dance party, and that’s what you get (just envision yourself standing at The Public in a flashy disco, complete with giant glitter ball, zinging laser lights, and traveling platforms).

Indeed, after my initial shock that a few songs simply didn’t stick, I found myself on the second listening bopping in my chair and humming along. Among many highlights are “The Fabulous One,” a denouncement of Imelda that sounds like a direct descendant of the Talking Heads, “Eleven Days,” in which Imelda rocks out Ruthie-Ann-Miles-center-and-the-cast-of-HERE-LIES-LOVE-at-The-Public-Theatre.about getting married to Marcos eleven days after meeting him, “Order 1081,” a keening ballad about the onset of martial law in the Philippines, and the memorable title track.

By using Marcos’ words, Byrne gives us a complex and uncomfortably sympathetic portrait of a woman who could give Marie Antoinette a run for ostentation and narcissism. But you don’t have to know anything about the Marcos regime or recent Filipino history to appreciate this unique and eclectic piece. It’s definitely not the usual sit-down musical, so expect the unexpected. Just don’t expect anything about shoes.

production photos by Joan Marcus

Here Lies Love
Original Cast CD on Nonesuch Records
available digitally (MP3s and FLAC lossless files)
and as a 2-CD set
to order, visit www.Nonesuch.com

Comments on this entry are closed.