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Casting Williamstown Workshop of Byrne and Slim's 'Here Lies Love'

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Casting Williamstown Workshop of Byrne and Slim's 'Here Lies Love'
Musicians David Byrne and Fatboy Slim have spent more than five years developing "Here Lies Love," their song cycle about former first lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos and Estrella Cumpas, the woman who raised her. A new stage production will premiere April 2-May 5, 2013 as part of The Public Theater's 2012-13 season, to be preceded by a workshop run at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, MA this summer.

The story is told against the political backdrop of the Marcos' rise to power and fortune in the Philippines, and "tells the story before the story we think we already know of the extravagance of her husband’s reign and the 2,700 pairs of shoes." Set in the clubs of the rich and famous that Imelda loved and frequented, the piece follows a period of history from poor beginnings in the 1950s to the 1980s, when Imelda and her family were forced to leave the Philippines.

Casting directors Jordan Thaler and Heidi Griffiths, who are casting the workshop and the Public's production, will be holding auditions in April for principal roles and ensemble singers and dancers. The musical will be directed by Alex Timbers ("Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson"). Rehearsals begin in May in New York City.

Characters include Imelda, a beautiful young Filipina woman "with ambition burning inside her"; Estrella, the strong and maternal Filipina servant and confidante who raised Imelda after her mother's death; and Marcos, a sexy, seductive, and masculine Filipino politician who is described as "Johnny Cash meets Conrad Birdie in Manila." Men and woman are also needed for ensemble roles that include beauty pageant contestants, soldiers, and citizens of Manila.

Equity principal auditions, as well as chorus calls for singers and dancers, will be held Monday, April 23 in New York. For more information and audition details, view the full casting notices at BackStage.com. (Subscription required.) The roles of Imelda, Marcos, and Imelda's mother Remedios have been cast, but auditioning performers may be considered as possible replacements. The role of Estrella is still available.

"Here Lies Love" was previously performed in concert at Australia's Adelaide Bank Festival of Arts in 2006 and at Carnegie Hall in 2007, but this will be the first fully staged production. Byrne released an album of songs from the show in 2010, with guest vocals by Florence Welch, Natalie Merchant, Tori Amos, Steve Earle, Santigold, and more. Thirty-second samples of each song are available for streaming online.

"The story I am interested in is about asking what drives a powerful person," Byrne wrote in his introduction for the project. "What makes them tick? How do they make and then remake themselves? I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if—as this piece would be principally composed of clubby dance music—one could experience it in a club setting? Could one bring a 'story' and a kind of theater to the disco? Was that possible? If so, wouldn’t that be amazing!"

According to a note from the casting directors, "Multiple ethnicities are found throughout the population of the Republic of the Philippines from the migrant arrivals from China, Spain, Korea, and Southeast Asia, among other nations. Because of the specific world of the play, we are particularly interested in considering performers to play Filipino, Latino, and Asian characters. All must have great pop singing voices and move well."

Jordan Thaler and Heidi Griffiths are the casting directors for The Public Theater and Shakespeare in the Park. Their credits include "Chinglish," "The Motherf**ker with the Hat," "Passing Strange," and the recent revival of "Hair."

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