David Byrne On His Broadway Musical ‘Here Lies Love’
David Byrne has spoken to Variety about the new Broadway adaptation of his musical, Here Lies Love.
Here Lies Love, written with Fatboy Slim, is a musical about the life of the former First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, along with the woman who raised her, Estrella Cumpas. It began life as a concept album in 2010 and was adapted into a musical that premiered in 2013. Ten years later, it’s making its Broadway debut.
Bryne reflected on the time it’s taken to get there, “If I’d known it would take that long, I probably would’ve said, ‘Oh, no, no, no, I’m gonna stick with my albums and tours’,” Byrne confesses. And then he immediately reverses course. “Each step along the way was a lot of fun, really, and very engaging and moving. So it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, this is a 20-year slog.”
Marcos and her husband Ferdinand placed the Philippines under Martial Law in 1972 and went on to steal billions of pesos from their people. Byrne went on to reflect on writing a musical about such a controversial figure, “If we don’t understand in a visceral way how easily this can happen, then we’re gonna be victims of the same thing. And so the audience, like the Philippine people, gets seduced, and so my hope is that they see how easily that that democracy and all this can be subverted… The fact that it all goes wrong wouldn’t mean anything if it was like that from the start.” And as for anyone worried that the musical numbers seem to show the Marcoses some sympathy before things go wrong, Byrne points out: “Often the best parts go to the villains.”
Byrne also spoke about how Here Lies Love has changed over the years, “The songs are the same, the story’s the same. But Alex [Timbers, director] and I both realized that Broadway audiences are different than, say, the downtown audience at the Public. It seems like a Broadway audience wants to be sure: Who is this? What’s happening now? What connects to that? Sometimes downtown audiences would just go with the flow, and in this case, you have to make sure people know what’s going on a little bit more.” That was mostly solved through video projections conveying important info, not messing with the score. “I added new lyrics just in one song, but only a little bit, and it was really just in order to allow an actor to walk from one side to the other; they needed an extra few beats,”