HomeMusicReview: Dancing With Dictators in David Byrne’s ‘Here Lies Love’

Review: Dancing With Dictators in David Byrne’s ‘Here Lies Love’


No surprise then that the most expressive element in “Here Lies Love” (along with Clint Ramos’s costumes, which also move beautifully) is the choreography by Annie-B Parson. Based on small hand gestures and large traffic patterns, it suggests a fuller spectrum of human engagement than the otherwise narrowly focused and sometimes mechanical production achieves.

Is it wrong to seek that engagement more fully? (Or as Imelda sings: “Is it a sin to love too much?”) For most of its 90 intermission-less minutes, “Here Lies Love” finesses the question, preferring to be treated as anything — an art object, a dance party — besides what it is. In that way, it recalls Byrne’s Broadway concert “American Utopia,” on which Timbers and Parson also collaborated. But that show, which had no story, needed only to be sleek and enjoyable to score its points.

“Here Lies Love” bets that glamour can make up for narrative — or, rather, that in a show about the dangers of political demagogy, glamour itself is the narrative. It’s a case of form follows function into the fire. We are drawn to cultural and political excitement in much the same, often dangerous way.

Perhaps the irony of making a musical about that is more viscerally appreciable down on the dance floor. It was for me at the Public, where almost everyone had to stand and be part of the story, not observers of it. (There were only 42 seats.) And perhaps, 10 years later, with our own politics looking a lot more like the Marcoses’, no one can afford to keep a distance.

In any case, on Broadway, it’s not until the gorgeous last song, “God Draws Straight,” that the material matches the movement in a way that reaches the balcony. Led by Moses Villarama, and based on comments by eyewitnesses to the peaceful 1986 revolution, it acknowledges the moral superiority of its real heroes — the Philippine people — in the only way a musical can: by giving it beautiful voice. Finally, it’s OK to applaud.

Here Lies Love
At the Broadway Theater, Manhattan; herelieslovebroadway.com. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

Content Source: www.nytimes.com


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