Struggling to find an audience, ‘Here Lies Love’ is about to bow out
The divisive Broadway musical “Here Lies Love” is about to take its final curtain call.
Despite its historic all-Filipino Broadway company, finding a strong audience for an immersive disco pop show on former First Lady Imelda Marcos and the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. proved difficult as its producers point to low ticket sales as the reason behind the early end to its run.
“Here Lies Love” is set to stage its final performance at the Broadway Theatre on Nov. 26. With the show opening on July 20 and previews that began on June 17, Playbill reports that the production will have played 33 previews and 149 regular performances before coming to a close.
“I’m flabbergasted that there are no lines of people around the block.”
The Washington Post reports that the musical’s weekly running cost at around $700,000 has been exceeding its weekly box-office take between $500,000 to $620,000. “What I didn’t anticipate was really the struggle for it to find its audience,” said Diana DiMenna, one of the show’s five lead producers, in an interview. “I’m flabbergasted that there are no lines of people around the block.”
The show’s producers wrote in a statement, “The reality is, succeeding on Broadway means not only producing excellent work with artistic merit—it also means creating the audience for it. And how much time it takes to find and grow new audiences is out of sync with the tight timeframes for audience-building and awareness.”
“Here Lies Love” has received criticisms from both Marcos loyalists and human rights advocates against historical revisionism. Transforming the traditional Broadway stage into a “disco dance club complete with a performance catwalk and satellite stages” that feature 360-degree lighting and video screens” is not enough to entice a Filipino-American audience wary of its narrative. It’s also having trouble building a non-Filipino-American pull.
As Filipino-American playwright and theater critic Amanda Andrei points out in her review for American Theatre, “In an age of rampant misinformation, do we need more dissonance?
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And for the average theatergoer who shows up without any knowledge of Philippine history and is simply looking for a fun night out, how effective can this dissonant message be? And how can people look for absences they don’t even know about? Furthermore, these theatergoers might reasonably ask: Why does it matter whether the musical glorifies Imelda Marcos or not?”
Will “Here Lies Love” find a strong audience elsewhere? Plans for possible upcoming runs of the show in Japan and Australia are reportedly underway.