Fascism – and you can dance to it | Moment's Notice

By Maria Montalvo | Jun 28, 2017

“Here Lies Love,” a musical by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, finished a 10-week run at the Seattle Repertoire Theatre on June 18. It is based on a 2010 album by Byrne (formerly of Talking Heads) and became a rock opera in 2013, on stage in New York City and London before coming to Seattle.

It is, well, remarkable, although its subject matter is not what would first come to mind as a musical – the rise and fall of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines (president/dictator from 1965-1986 after 16 years in the House and Senate).

The spotlight, though, is on Imelda Marcos and the woman she became during that reign.

The audience is part of the show, literally dancing through scenes and interacting with the cast as the stage changes shape and moves. The musical somehow effectively represents Imelda’s political savvy in her early years as first lady by having her partying in a drug haze at Studio 54 and dancing with world leaders at state events (Gorbachev, Reagan, Khadafy flash around the theatre from old news reels and press photos).

As the country begins to rise up in defiance, the imagery softens and rebellious anthems, sorrowful pleas and, eventually, heartfelt storytelling build hope. The regime ends, like they all do, although this time brought on by a peaceful revolution and not a military coup or extraction by a more powerful nation.

The story is not a new one – struggling but beautiful and determined young girl searches for a new life and love from the wealthy and powerful.

Imelda was a strong woman who overcame adversity, significantly contributed to (if not created) her husband’s political success, and unlike other obvious parallels to the musically memorialized Eva Peron, continues to enjoy a long life of wealth, and in her mind, service to her country.

(She is still alive and serving as an elected representative in the Philippines.)

Not a moment of “Here Lies Love” is spent on Imelda’s shoes, the shoes that were pervasive in U.S. media coverage of the Marcos regime in the 1980s (a small part of the $5 billion to $10 billion estimated stolen from the people).

What it does show, in perhaps the most jarring moment of the musical, is footage from when the leader of the opposition, Ninoy Aquino, is assassinated as he returns to the Philippines from exile.

The image of his lifeless body at the base of the plane stairway is horrific.

Perhaps I was too young to be allowed to see it in 1983, but I do not remember that or images of American military helicopters evacuating the Marcoses and 50 of their closest friends and family to Hawaii when the U.S. finally withdrew its overt support of the regime.

The current president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, known for “extrajudicial killings” of thousands in his drug war, recently announced a presidential burial for Marcos, and in May, proclaimed martial law similar to that called by Marcos in 1972.

Duterte was also congratulated by President Trump for his “unbelievable job on the drug problem” and invited to the White House to ensure continued military access to the country and to “build solidarity throughout Asia,” White House officials said.

Seeing “Here Lies Love” could be at the top of my list of theater experiences, and perhaps that is why we went back to see it a second time.

It mesmerizes you with dynamic characters making history, and transports you to circumstances that are repeated again and again – a repressive and cruel dictator supported by world powers until the utility no longer outweighs the bad press.

The fantastic music, romantic settings, and enchanting beauty easily pull you into a fantasy with the Filipino people. I’d hate to think a fascist could woo me if the tune was good.

 

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