Go inside the immersive experience of ‘Here Lies Love’ on Broadway

The musical at the Broadway Theatre, converted into a club, offers tickets to traditional seats or dance floor access. Our writers report on each experience.

Joe Dziemianowicz
Joe Dziemianowicz

Imelda Marcos loved the scene — and being seen — at the infamous Studio 54 nightclub. Of course she did. That fact beats at the heart of Here Lies Love, a fevered disco bio-musical about the rise and fall of the deadly Marcos regime in the Philippines.

First seen in 2013 at The Public Theater, David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s show is now on Broadway with an all-Filipino cast led by Arielle Jacobs, Jose Llana, and Conrad Ricamora as, respectively, Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos and their political rival Ninoy Aquino. And then there's you. Yes, you, the audience members, who play various parts in their historic power struggle.

Here Lies Love is an immersive production, with options for how close you get to the action. You can get ground-level standing tickets for the 90-minute show, so you’re in the middle of the fray, or be seated in the mezzanine for a more traditional perspective. New York Theatre Guide writers checked out both options at the Broadway Theatre and report on the experience of each. Both are thrilling — and thought-provoking.

From the Here Lies Love dance floor

Gillian Russo

If you didn’t know better, you’d think the Broadway Theatre — now outfitted with multiple elevated platforms, a humongous disco ball, and a spacious dance floor where rows of seats used to be — was a nightclub partially converted into a theatre for Here Lies Love, not the other way around. Neon lights illuminate the faces of the actors and your fellow clubgoers. The cavernous venue feels cozy, almost intimate, especially as the ambitious political characters make it a point to engage with you. You may even end up as a pawn in one of their televised speeches.

With a flurry of 360-degree action happening at all times, there are no less than five different things to opt to watch at any moment: a lead actor singing five feet from you on a central runway, another lead actor looking on from the mezzanine, an ensemble dancing on the frontmost stage or side platforms, projections on every wall, a DJ spinning tunes in a booth aloft. Being on the dance floor at Here Lies Love is thus a choose-your-own-adventure experience. But also, it’s not.

When the ushers tell you to move, you move, lest that runway mow you down as it spins like a blade. When the actors call on you to dance and clap, you dance and clap or risk your neighbor jumping on your toes. And even if you opt to stand still as an act of resistance, pointedly turning your eyes to the historical footage of the revolution or projected headlines declaring the Marcoses’ power abuses, Imelda’s carefully curated story marches on and forcefully propels the audience — even we who see through her stylized facade — along with it. Like a dictatorship.

A scene in which Imelda looks down on us from an elevated corner, as we assume the place of protestors who descended upon the Marcoses’ palace and forced them out of the country, reminds us there’s another way to (literally) stand up to power. The rest of the time, it is undeniably seductive to dance and lose yourself in Byrne and Slim’s exhilarating music and Justin Townsend’s vibrant lights. But at what cost? That question seems exactly what we’re meant to ask as we file off the floor, hearts still thumping. Whether from the bassline or the simulated sound of gunshots, it’s hard to say.

From the Here Lies Love seats

Joe Dziemianowicz

Can a bio-musical celebrate and excoriate at the same time? Here Lies Love tries. I opted to see the show seated for comfort and distance from the madding crowd.

I wonder what the view would be from seats very high up, but my center mezzanine seat was a prime one. I was directly in line with the massive spinning mirror ball and, at one point, the sight of Imelda, fur-coated and punch-drunk on power, pirouetting below it to the pulse of the consistently catchy music.

What has stayed with me — along with the OMG sights and sounds — is the unnerving realization that crept up on me later, after I left my bird’s-eye view of the dazzling goings-on. I was seated out of the fray, the mix, the masses — but I was still there, still complicit. Peeping with the enemy, if you will.

I may not have danced when summoned. I may not have hobnobbed and posed for pictures as the manipulative Marcoses preened and campaigned. I may not have moved in unison like puppets led by the Marcoses’ handlers in pink jumpsuits waving glowing batons, but doing nothing is doing something. And it can give rise to oppression.

The fraught notion of neutrality isn’t Here Lies Love’s invention, of course. But it's a canny takeaway thanks to director Alex Timbers, who places the action here, there, everywhere — even near the nosebleeds. So if you think you aren’t immersed, you are. Everyone’s part of the story. And not just this story.

That’s one thing the show leaves you to chew on — along with a fact about mirror balls. They’re made for self-reflection. A show works when it makes you look at yourself.

Get tickets to Here Lies Love on Broadway.

Here Lies Love throbs with theatricality and the power to dazzle as it traces a slice of history that could — and should — be regarded as a cautionary tale. Between its ingenious and energizing immersive staging, ear- and eye-catching delights, and its historic showcase for Filipino actors, there are so many reasons to get into the groove. Seated? Standing? Your choice. Either invites you into a complex dance with history.

Photo credit: Here Lies Love on Broadway. (Photo by Billy Bustamante, Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

Originally published on

Subscribe to our newsletter to unlock exclusive New York theatre updates!

Special offers, reviews and release dates for the best shows in town.

You can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy