Alex Timbers and Here Lies Love

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Ruthie Ann Miles (center) and the cast of <em>Here Lies Love</em>
From and

The director Alex Timbers is young, but in the last few years he’s already carved out a unique niche as a director of historical musicals. He directed Gutenberg! The Musical! as well as the critically acclaimed Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. “Growing up, I was a fan of Schoolhouse Rock,” Timbers tells Kurt Andersen. “I like figuring out ways you can make the past palatable and fun by crashing together the lowbrow and the highbrow.”

Last year, Timbers directed Here Lies Love, written by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim — part musical, part dance party, part history lesson. It tells the story of Imelda Marcos, wife and collaborator of Ferdinand Marcos. “When you hear there is a disco musical about Imelda Marcos, you think it's going to be some spoofy thing,” Timbers remarks. “We didn't want that.” So from the very beginning the creative team agreed: “There will be no shoes. This ends before the shoes.”

Alex TimbersAlex Timbers
(Joan Marcus)

Still, the show is a far cry from the melodrama of Evita. It immerses the audience in a disco experience — no seats, only a dance floor, with line-dancing lessons before the curtain. (Lights are kept low to encourage reluctant dancers.) “We wanted it to feel like a nightclub,” Timbers explains. “Imelda loved to visit Studio 54 and she had a disco ball in her apartment with a dance floor on the roof, so we thought that should be the idiom for the staging.”

Working with recent history was a change from shows like Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. In the audience the first night was the son of the general who wrote Marcos’ infamous Proclamation No. 1081 imposing martial law, which is a key moment in the show. The majority of the cast members are of Filipino ancestry, and had relatives who experienced the regime firsthand. “They're getting to tell the story of their parents and grandparents.”

Perhaps success has drawn Timbers away from his niche; he directed the musical Rocky that’s on Broadway right now.

(Originally aired: May 17, 2013)


Alex Timbers' 3 for 360

Music Playlist

  1. Here Lies Love

    Artist: David Byrne & Fatboy Slim feat. Florence Welch [Florence + The Machine]
    Album: Here Lies Love
    Label: Nonesuch
  2. Here Lies Love

    Artist: David Byrne and Fatboy Slim
    Album: Here Lies Love: Original Cast Recording
    Label: Nonesuch