Arielle Jacobs on the role of Imelda Marcos in Here Lies Love on Broadway

Broadway’s “Here lies the love“is an explosive showcase for actors and singers Ariel Jacobs, whose chilling, fast-paced performance has made the captivating musical a must-see. The show is also a noisy dance party and a historic firstwith an all-Filipino cast.

Still, Jacobs understands why some audience members leave the theater feeling conflicted—perhaps even a little anxious—given what they just witnessed onstage.

“I knew telling this story would open wounds for a lot of people,” the California native told HuffPost after the musical open last month at New York’s Broadway Theater. “There is great weight in playing a character like that, especially a real person who has caused a lot of damage and trauma to their people and their country.”

She further remarked, “But this show isn’t monotonous. We tell a cautionary tale. My hope is that by opening up these wounds we will create space for healing and conversation, and allow families and friends to talk about things they didn’t want to bring up. So I think the experience of the show…is not to be avoided. It is something that gives courage.”

Set to disco-pop music by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, Here Lies Love tells the true story of Imelda Marcos (played by Jacobs), who rose from obscurity on the arm of President Ferdinand Marcos to become the First Lady of the Philippines (Jose Llana) in 1965.

"There is great weight in embracing such a character, especially a real person who has caused much harm and trauma to his people and country." said Jacobs.
“There’s a lot of weight in embracing a character like that, especially a real person who has caused a lot of damage and trauma to their people and their country,” Jacobs said.

Elias Williams for HuffPost

For a time, the Marcoses were hailed as their country’s response to US President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. However, one of her main critics is Filipino Senator Ninoy Aquino (Conrad Ricamora), who had a brief romance with Imelda in her youth and regularly references how she and her husband are doing well documented spend too much begins to sink their country’s economy.

About seven years after his election, Ferdinand Marcos imposed the office martial law throughout his country to maintain political and economic control. It wasn’t long before his regime – described Described by historians as a “conjugal dictatorship” – has been besmirched by a grisly record of human rights abuses, many of which were directed at his opponents. In 1986 he and Imelda were overthrown and thrown into exile people power revolution.

Here Lies Love began as a concept album in 2010 Has been staged three years later at the Public Theater in New York by Tony Award-winning director Alex Timbers, who repeats this task on Broadway. Jacobs first auditioned for the 2013 production, but The part of Imelda went to actress Ruthie Ann Miles.

Before the Broadway production of Here Lives Love was announced earlier this year, Miles had already joined the revival by Sweeney Todd. Jacobs now felt he had grown into the role. After an audition that lasted three months, she got the part in March.

“As a Filipino-American artist, I’ve never had the opportunity to play a Filipino because there just aren’t any stories written for us,” she said. “There are also many roles like this that are written for men, especially in Shakespearean plays. But I can’t think of a single role written for a woman that goes so deep and allows her to show such breadth, from innocence to corruption to leadership.”

Jacobs (left) and Jose Llana "Here lies the love."
Jacobs (left) and Jose Llana in Here Lies Love.

Billy Bustamante, Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

As Imelda, Jacobs is not short of breathtaking moments. Her renditions of the show’s theme song and plaintive anthem “Why Don’t You Love Me?” are outstanding, and she undergoes a whopping 19 costume changes over the course of the show’s 90 minutes. Thanks to an innovative set design by David Korins and the use of L-ISA, a state-of-the-art form of spatial sound technology from the French audio manufacturer L-AcousticsShe is able to sing and dance beyond the Broadway Theater stage to the mezzanine and balcony.

13 years ago, Jacobs made her Broadway debut in In the Heights and had a starring role in In the Heights.Evil” And “Aladdin.” Still, Here Lies Love marks a major step forward for her as a performer, as it is her first time taking on a Broadway role.

The musical also has a deep personal resonance for the actress and singer, who grew up in San Francisco alongside her brother, fellow Broadway star Adam Jacobs. Her maternal grandfather was a US Army Filipino Boy Scout during World War II when the Philippines was an American colony and immigrated to the United States in 1965.

“I’m here for him,” Jacobs said. “My dream of being on Broadway now allows me to shed a light on the past and look back to where we came from.”

Many have described “Here Lies Love” as theater successor to “Evita” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice similarly divisive 1978 musical based on the life of former Argentine First Lady Eva Perón. To be fair, there are a number of parallels between Marcos and Perón, at least as far as the depiction of their rise from rags to riches and reckless drive in both musicals.

From the left: "Here lies the love" It stars Conrad Ricamora, Arielle Jacobs, Lea Salonga and Jose Llana.
From left: Here Lies Love starring Conrad Ricamora, Arielle Jacobs, Lea Salonga and Jose Llana.

Bruce Glikas via Getty Images

Still, Jacobs finds such comparisons reductive at best.

“I’d say it’s closer to Lady Macbeth than Evita,” she said. And unlike “Evita,” the show ends on a forward-looking, if foreboding, note that alludes to today’s socio-political climate. Not only is Imelda herself still alive at the age of 94, but so is her son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.was elected President of the Philippines last year.

“People who say we glorify or trivialize the Marcoses haven’t seen the show,” she added. “Unfortunately, democracy is currently in danger everywhere. What’s special about our show is that the audience can experience what it’s like when democracy is taken away from you and then you get it back again.”

In addition to Broadway, Jacobs worked on another professional project. This fall, she will compete alongside her husband, fellow actor JJ Caruncho The Sanctiviaa New York-based wellness company focused on mental and physical fitness.

And looking to the future, she’s hoping to follow in the footsteps of other musical performers like Idina Menzel and Lea Salonga – who incidentally guest-starred on Here Lies Love earlier this summer and is one of the musical’s performers co-producers – by voicing an animated character.

Though Jacobs is committed to Here Lies Love for the foreseeable future, she hopes the show’s success will be instrumental in “opening more doors for more Filipinos to share their stories, and more Filipinos on the stage, in.” Bringing TV and film and taking on roles where we can act ourselves.”

“Telling this story makes me feel like I can connect with people, and storytelling helps them connect to their own lives,” she said. “And I love that.”

Jacobs hopes for success "Here lies the love" will be critical to
Jacobs hopes the success of Here Lies Love will be instrumental in “opening more doors for more Filipinos to share their stories.”

Elias Williams for HuffPost

Related Articles

Back to top button