Lea Salonga, a renowned Filipino actor and singer, has once again made her mark on Broadway, this time in the groundbreaking musical “Here Lies Love.” The musical narrates the life of Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines, and her husband, President Ferdinand Marcos. Salonga’s role in the production signifies a significant shift in visibility and representation for the Filipino community. The musical’s arrival on Broadway aligns with a period of increased Filipino identity and empowerment, as well as a surge in representation for Filipino-Americans.
Background and Impact
Lea Salonga gained fame in 1991 when she won a Tony Award for her performance in “Miss Saigon,” becoming the first Asian woman to win a Tony in an acting role. However, she clarifies that she was not the first; that distinction goes to Korean-American costume designer Willa Kim. The musical “Here Lies Love” features an all-Filipino cast and over 30 producers of Filipino descent, contributing to increased visibility and representation for the Filipino community.
Shifting Visibility and Representation
Salonga reflects on how Filipino representation in mainstream pop culture has evolved. She notes that Filipino restaurants, celebrities, and stories have become more visible in the United States, compared to when she first moved to New York. Salonga attributes this shift to the changing cultural landscape and the growing confidence of Filipinos to stand out and embrace their identity.
Challenges of Assimilation
Salonga acknowledges that Filipinos have excelled at assimilation, possibly due to a historical legacy of colonial rule and a survival mechanism. She suggests that in the past, assimilation may have been a defense mechanism to avoid conflict. However, the changing times have shown that standing out and embracing one’s heritage can be a positive choice.
Performance in “Here Lies Love”
In “Here Lies Love,” Salonga portrays Aurora Aquino, the mother of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, a Filipino senator and opposition leader who was assassinated. The musical offers an immersive experience and addresses the complexities of the Marcos regime. Salonga believes that the show encourages viewers to seek more information and engage with the history it presents.
Salonga sees “Here Lies Love” as a significant step forward in representing various cultures and stories on Broadway. She hopes that it will lead to more diverse narratives being told and people occupying space as their authentic selves. The musical not only celebrates Filipino talent but also highlights the potential for further exploration of untapped stories and perspectives.
Lea Salonga’s involvement in “Here Lies Love” marks a milestone in Broadway history, showcasing the increased visibility and representation of the Filipino community. The musical serves as a platform for sharing a crucial part of Filipino history and culture, contributing to the ongoing progress of diverse storytelling on stage.