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'Here Lies Love' at the Public Theatre is is still exciting, but the concept wears thin
It was inevitable that “Here Lies Love,” David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s electronic pop, dance club-style musical about former First Lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos, would return following its short hit run at the Public Theater one year ago. But where could it be done?
As inventively staged by wunderkind director Alex Timbers (“Rocky,” “Peter and the Starcatcher”), “Here Lies Love” is a high-energy, immersive experience not unlike “Sleep No More” and “Fuerza Bruta” where audience members stand throughout the show and can freely move around.
But it is also a smart, edgy musical about a celebrity-seeking political leader, her rags-to-riches journey, the corruption of her regime and her relationship with those around her. In essence, “Here Lies Love” is a discotheque revamp of “Evita.”
No Broadway theater could have possibly suited Timbers’ production, which requires an open space that can accommodate large shifting platforms and wall-to-wall projections. This being the case, “Here Lies Love” has returned to the same upstairs hall at the Public Theater, which is being rented out by commercial producers for an open-ended run.
“Here Lies Love” remains as exciting and elaborate as before. Its young, ethnic flavored cast is fantastic. But one can’t help but wonder whether its staging concept actually overshadows and upends everything else. Did its creators think the material itself was too thin to work without it?
In a more traditional setting, its creators would have no excuse for not using a live band instead of a recorded soundtrack. This is a disconcerting issue that received surprisingly little attention during its initial run.
And what about audience members who feel uncomfortable standing around for 90 minutes and being ordered to jump around and do dance steps? (A limited number of seats are available on an upper level.)
But were it not for the 360-degree nightclub setting, the show would probably not have received the attention that no doubt fueled its comeback.
If you go: “Here Lies Love” plays an open run at the Public Theater. 425 Lafayette St.,publictheater.org.