When my boyfriend led me to the Public Theater last Saturday for a "surprise," I was expecting to see a good play. But nothing could prepare me for Here Lies Love. Let's just go through some of the key points, shall we? 1) It is immersive! I simply cannot get enough of immersive theatre. Right when you think you've seen it all, BOOM. They throw something else at you.2) It's a musical! While I do appreciate a good straight play, there's just nothing like a musical to quench my theatre thirst. And Here Lies Love was both of these things and more.
When I entered the theatre space, I quickly discovered that Here Lies Love was not your run of the mill musical. For one thing, there were no seats. We were expected to stay standing for the entirety of the show and move around the space as instructed. The theatre was arranged to look like an intimate nightclub. I walked in and was assaulted by head-splittingly loud music, twirling disco balls, and strobe lights. An eccentrically dressed DJ complete with a bright white spiky hairdo seemed to be running the place, and over the microphone he welcomed us to the Millennium. He informed us that the men and women bordering the space clad in neon pink jumpsuits were there to assist us over the course of the show by ushering us along as needed and moving the wheeling platforms. After their introduction, the pink jumpsuit crew made their way through the crowd to set up for the first number, one of the men stopping to accept my high five. Score!
Here Lies Love is about Imelda Marcos, the former First Lady of the Philippines, a lady most known for her extensive shoe collection (3000!). When I heard that she was to be the show's subject, I couldn't imagine how she could inspire a musical. But Here Lies Love didn't even touch upon Imelda Marcos' footwear and instead portrayed her as a person of multiple dimensions and worthy of having her story told.
Here Lies Love engaged me more than any play I've seen to date. Theatre creates an incredibly intimate world. And oftentimes during intermission, once the curtain drops, it is all too easy to succumb to the temptation of the so called "real world" of Facebook updates and text messages and separate yourself from what you've just seen. And although after a short 15 minutes the show will resume, you are already slightly removed from what you are experiencing. Here Lies Love allowed no such occurrence. There was no intermission, which left me no choice but to be fully involved in the action. Therefore, the spell was never broken.
And this musical offered a lot of opportunities for audience participation; It wasn't so much an option as a rule. When I wasn't belting out lyrics to songs at the insistence of the cast, I was joining the room in a traditional Filipino line dance! But all of this was topped by being invited alongside the rest of the audience on stage to join the cast and staff members alike in singing the musical's title song, "Here Lies Love."