Theater Cancels Musical about Imelda Marcos in San Francisco

Here Lies Love was suposed to come to the American Conservatory Theater in June (Photo: Courtesy of Public Theater)

There’s disappointing news for Bay Area fans of David Byrne and musicals. The American Conservatory Theater (ACT) has cancelled plans to stage Here Lies Love, the musical about Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos by Byrne and Fatboy Slim.

The show played to good reviews in 2013 and 2014 at the Public Theater in New York City and then in London, but ACT's director says producing the show would be too expensive.

“Everybody here wanted to do it,” said ACT’s Interim Executive Director Peter Pastreich in a phone interview Wednesday morning. “But we were looking at a loss of between $800,000 and $1 million.”

The production would have cost about $2.5 million, Pastreich said, and though the company had hoped to raise an extra $250,000 in “special giving” to offset production costs, “we did not find patrons in the community,” Pastreich said, “who thought this was of sufficient interest, above and beyond normal fundraising.”

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Pastreich said the show is so expensive to stage because it calls for audiences to stand, mingle, and dance with performers during the show, and that would have required covering all the seats in the company’s historic Geary Theater and building a new stage. The company also considered alternative venues like the Armory in San Francisco, but those plans fell through.

ACTs Interim Executive Director Peter Pastreich
ACTs Interim Executive Director Peter Pastreich (Photo: Courtesy Courtesy of American Conservatory Theater)

“We had two people in New York for two weeks negotiating details for the production,” Pastreich said. “We’re not critical of them at all, and we feel awful we couldn’t make it work.”

Instead of Here Lies Love, ACT announced Tuesday they’ll produce a A Night with Janis Joplin as a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love in San Francisco. The show had a record-breaking run at the now-defunct San Jose Repertory Theater in 2013.

“What better moment to celebrate the power of love and the uniqueness of the Bay Area,” ACT Artistic Director Carey Perloff said in a statement, “than by rocking out to the incredible music of Janis Joplin and the women who influenced her!”

The Seattle Repertory Theater had worked with ACT on bringing Here Lies Love to the West Coast, and that company emailed to say they're going ahead with the production which opens in April 2017.

"We are certainly sorry to be losing the co-producing partnership of Here Lies Love with A.C.T.," wrote Seattle Rep Communication Director Michelle Leyva, "This news does not affect the amazing work we have already done and will continue to do for this show."

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