How ‘Here Lies Love’ Transformed Broadway Into a Nightclub

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Award-winning scenic designer David Korins calls his work on Broadway’s newest sensation “Here Lies Love” the “most ambitious piece of theater I’ve ever done.” And that’s a high bar: Korins counts The Oscars, “Beetlejuice” and “Hamilton” among his credits.

Set to throbbing beats from David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, “Here Lies Love” centers on the Philippines’ controversial former First Lady, Imelda Marcos. The idea was to make the show as immersive as possible and turn a Midtown Manhattan theater into a disco ballroom.

Says Korins, “When we did it at the Public Theater, a bunch of people were standing, and some were looking over the ledge. That experience was so new and rare.”

After its Off-Broadway debut in 2013, the show went to London and then Seattle. Korins says the production team looked at over 50 venues before “Here Lies Love” would eventually find a home in the Broadway Theater.

So, just how did Korins and his team transform the theater into a dance floor?

First, they removed the orchestra seats. “We built a floor that goes all the way from the back to the front of the theater, and we decked over the entire orchestra,” he says. “You are standing where the stage would have been.” The dance floor allows for up to 300 audience members to be standing while remaining within fire safety guidelines.

As for the audience members who prefer not to stand during the 90-minute show, there is seating on the side and in the mezzanine. “There are 500 seats up there,” he says. And he adds, “You are welcome to stand up and dance if you’re in a seat.”

The story, in part about how easily democracy can turn into dictatorship, is not lost on Korins.

“We’re seeing people weeping at the end of our show. The end pulls into focus the idea of how fragile democracy is,” Korins says. “We have this case study in the Philippines of how the rise has happened again with Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Romualdez Marcos Jr., the Marcos’ son. We present it as a nightclub dance party, but it’s really a Trojan horse story about democracy and a revolution.”

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