July 21, 2023
Review: Dancing With Dictators in David Byrne’s ‘Here Lies Love’
It’s the applause — including my own — I find troubling. Not that there isn’t plenty to praise in “ ,” the immersive disco-bio-musical about Imelda Marcos that opened on Thursday at the Broadway Theater. The infernally catchy songs by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, performed by a tireless and , will have you clapping whether you want to or not. Their chunky beats, abetted by insistent dance motivators, may even prompt you to bop at your seat — if you have one. Because the real star of this show is the astonishing architectural transformation of the theater itself, by the set designer David Korins. Opened in 1924 as a movie palace, more lately the home of “King Kong” and “West Side Story,” the Broadway has now been substantially gutted, its nearly 1,800 seats reduced to about 800, with standing room for another 300 in the former orchestra section and a 42-inch disco ball dead center. The folks upstairs, if not the mostly younger standees below, will surely recognize the visual reference to Studio 54, the celebrity nightclub where Marcos, the first lady of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, danced away the last decade of her reign while impoverishing her people. That she would probably adore the over-emphatic atmosphere of “Here Lies Love” — with its lurid lighting by Justin Townsend, skittering projections by Peter Nigrini and earsplitting sound by M.L. Dogg and Cody Spencer — is, however, equivocal praise. For here we are, at the place where irony and meta-messaging form a theatrical-historical knot that can’t be picked apart. Which is why, as you clap, you should probably wonder what for. Is it for Imelda (Arielle Jacobs), the beauty Queen who rose from “hand-me-downs and scraps” to become the fashion-plate wife of the Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos? Is it for the ruthless Ferdinand himself (Jose Llana)? (His landslide election in 1965 elicited some Pavlovian cheers the night I saw the show.) Or is it for Ninoy Aquino (Conrad Ricamora), the opposition leader who was Imelda’s former beau? (Having spurned her in their youth, he was later assassinated by forces thought to be close to Ferdinand’s regime.) All get equivalent star treatment here. The confusion of sympathies is just where Byrne and the director Alex Timbers want us. Avoiding the near-hagiography of “Evita” and yet unwilling to bank a commercial production on a totally hateful character, they aim for a middle ground that doesn’t exist, yet mostly hit it anyway. Their Imelda is a victim of poverty and mistreatment, dim despite her cunning and innocent by reason of inanity. When Filipinos fully turn against her during the People Power revolution of 1986, she is more mystified than crushed. “Why don’t you love me?” she sings. : The string of her outrages, even apart from her husband’s, seems literally endless. She did not retire from public office until 2019, and . But “Here Lies Love” — the title taken from an epitaph she proposed for herself — tempers the atrocities with the pleasure of its songs. Jacobs, a Broadway Jasmine in “Aladdin,” gets the catchiest ones, and delivers them well, if without the emotional nuance Ruthie Ann Miles brought to the role a decade earlier when the show had a developmental run at the Public Theater. To be fair, the material steers as far from emotion as possible, no matter how many times the word “love” is used. Byrne’s characteristic idiom — which feeds disco, folk and pop through an art rock filter — is too cool for that, and his lyrics, perhaps because they are based on public utterances of the real-life figures, reject psychology almost entirely. They are often thus too banal to serve the usual purpose of songs in musicals; instead of developing character internally they suggest it externally with a torrent of catchphrases. “It takes a woman to do a man’s Job,” Imelda sings blankly upon assuming power from the sickly Ferdinand. Without a vivid inner life to inflect such clichés, it’s hard to wring anything from them except a cringe. The beamish Ricamora and the scowling Llana, returning from the earlier production, get around the problem with their charisma, and Lea Salonga, in the cameo role of Aquino’s mother, turns “Just Ask the Flowers,” sung at Ninoy’s funeral, into a powerful if perplexing anthem through sheer vocal bravura. Still, a musical not centered on feelings is a strange thing. Where another show might attempt to squeeze the relationship between Imelda and Ninoy for drama, it is merely a lump of undigested fact here. And Imelda’s infamous collection of state-financed shoes goes unmentioned, which is like mounting “Evita” without . To compensate, or double down, Timbers emphasizes pure pageantry in his staging. The actors often perform on an array of moving platforms that transport the action to various parts of the theater while incidentally sweeping the standees into new configurations. (Guides in pink jumpsuits with airport-style light wands keep them from getting mowed down.) You are left to draw your own conclusions about how crowds, whether in Manila or Manhattan, respond to being pushed around for too long and for apparently arbitrary reasons. There’s a reason affiliations and uprisings are often called movements. 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 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. , 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. At the Broadway Theater, Manhattan; . Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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