Here Lies Love pop-up theatre hatched at Barangaroo for ‘the audience who hate musicals’

Here Lies Love Public Theater/LuEsther Hall. Image supplied
Here Lies Love Public Theater. Image by Lu Esther Hall

“We’re going to bring in the audience who hates musicals,” promised composer David Byrne at today’s launch of the Australian premiere of Here Lies Love – opening 7 May as part of VIVID Festival 2015.

No small statement to a nation that supports sports like the holy grail and pops into a theatre once every blue moon, Here Lies Love is in Sydney to shake things up. Starting with a cracker move: the construction of a brand new 550 seat pop-up theatre – The Millennium – at Barangaroo to house the musical.

Here Lies Love tells the story of Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos in an experimental rock-concert-meets-dance-club-meets-musical-theatre show where the audience are fully immersed in the action onstage.

“The idea is you enter a dance club and get the narrative through music and activity that takes place around you,” Byrne said. The audience is in the middle of a 360-degree scenic and video environment that emulates a dance club where they can move around the space and essentially “do whatever they like.”

David Byrne at Barangaroo. Image supplied
David Byrne at Barangaroo. Image by Dennis Watkins

Byrne first had the idea for the show when discovering that Imelda Marcos converted the top floor of her house in Manila into a dance club – mirror ball and all. Melding that idea with her larger-than-life public persona and Here Lies Love was born.

Byrne penned the show with Fat Boy Slim – neither of whom come from musical theatre backgrounds. Byrne says musicals weren’t really his “thing” but he came to see lots of shows when his daughter had to watch theatre for school. When the idea for Here Lies Love came about, his intention from the get-go was to “overthrow” the genre and “come up with a completely new way of doing [musicals]”.

A “new way” that has taken audiences by storm, Here Lies Love is consistently touted by New York’s toughest critics as amongst the best theatre of 2013.

Rodney Rigby from New Theatricals (Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages) is the man behind Australia’s premiere. Rigby is producing with the support of Destination NSW who have been the muscle behind the creation of The Millennium in Barangaroo. The new theatre will be the first of what means to become a cultural and artistic precinct at Central Barangaroo.

What better time, then, to premiere this new musical and new venue than at VIVID Sydney 2015. Vivid has become a wildly successful festival showcasing the best of Sydney and drawing in crowds of over a million people. This make-shift shipping-container-come-theatre will be a feature of the Festival.

A bold, innovative move, Here Lies Love has to be the most exciting new venture in Sydney’s musical theatre scene for quite some time.

Tickets for Here Lies Love go on sale Monday 24 November with cast announcements made early next year.

Here Lies Love opens on 7 May 2015.

Maryann Wright

Maryann Wright is a performer and writer. She has a Diploma of Musical Theatre from Brent Street and a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) from The University of Sydney. Recent performance credits include Heart of a Dog (Australian premiere), Carrie (Squabbalogic) and Urinetown (Brent Street). She is currently shooting new Australian pilot TV show Subject To Change playing Karly.

Maryann Wright

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