On Global Filipinos: ‘Here Lies Love:’ The  FilAms’ ‘Hamilton’   

Don Michael Mendoza and Lora Nicolas Olaes make their debut as Broadway co-producers: ‘Dream come true.’ Courtesy of Lora Nicolas Olaes

By Loida Nicolas Lewis

David Byrne and Fat Boy Slim’s musical “Here Lies Love” makes its Broadway debut presenting the first Filipino story on the Great White Way. It features an all-Filipino cast including stage legend Lea Salonga at The Broadway Theatre on July 20, 2023.

The show debuts two first-time Broadway co-producers Don Michael Mendoza and Lora Nicolas Olaes. (Author’s note: Lora also happens to be my niece.)

“I never thought I would say the words ‘I am producing a Broadway musical’ in my life,” says Mendoza. “It’s a dream come true and such an honor to be part of this milestone for my cultural heritage.”

Nicolas Olaes, an actor/singer whose history with “Here Lies Love” traces back to being cast on its very first workshop, concurs, “It’s pretty surreal that with about a decade in the theater industry as a performer, I get to make my Broadway debut—but as a producer. I never would have predicted that for myself 10 years ago, but in many ways, it feels so right that this is where my path as an artist took me.”

Another first in Broadway history are two Filipino lead producers: Clint Ramos (Tony Award winning costume designer) and Jose Antonio Vargas (Pulitzer Prize winning journalist).

Together with Mendoza and Nicolas Olaes, they are part of a historical cohort of Filipino co-producers, most of whom are making their Broadway producer debuts too.

“Here Lies Love” is a groundbreaking musical about former First Lady Imelda Marcos’s astonishing rise to power and subsequent fall at the hands of the Philippine People Power Revolution in 1986.

The musical had sold-out, critically acclaimed runs at The Public Theater in 2013, London’s National Theatre in 2014, and Seattle Rep in 2017.

The all-Filipino cast. Photo: ‘Here Lies Love’/Facebook

Today, the buzz about this Broadway show is so loud that it already made milestones at the box office “breaking Telecharge” on the day pre-sales began in March, according to Ramos.

“Clint is becoming the Broadway producing mentor that I didn’t know I could have in my life,” said Mendoza who met Ramos through Nicolas Olaes via an email introduction, after expressing interest when he learned it was coming to Broadway. It felt the most natural for Mendoza to immediately invite Nicolas Olaes as partner, having already co-produced various shows together.

“Don Mike is the second person to recognize my potential as a producer three years ago (the first, being my cousin, Leslie Lewis), and has been my guide to the producing world since. I couldn’t be happier that we’re doing this together,” said Nicolas Olaes.

Mendoza added, “We were willing to sell t-shirts in the lobby to support this moment but Clint was gracious enough to give me and Lora a chance to become Broadway producers.”

In addition to the many staffing firsts, “Here Lies Love” also debuts many structural and technological achievements. This includes a dance floor made of 20 tons of steel stretching from the back of the stage all the way to the back of the orchestra section creating the dance floor ticketing tier, rather than the traditional orchestra seat, and the first 360-degree sound system to be used in a Broadway theater.

According to set designer David Korins, the entire Broadway Theater is transformed into an immersive disco club experience where audience members from the dance floor up to the mezzanine because of runways that stretch all the way to the back of the space will be. Korins also designed sets for Broadway’s “Hamilton” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” Immersive Van Gogh, and The Academy Awards and paired with direction from Tony Award Winner Alex Timbers.

It will be an experience few will forget.

“I saw the show three times,” Nicolas Olaes said, referring to its Off Broadway run which concluded in January 2015, following multiple extensions.

Mendoza, who saw the show for the first time at one of the Broadway cast’s rehearsals agrees, “It’s the kind of show that will make audiences want to see it again and again, so they can experience the show in different ways,” he said.

The duo, who jokingly coined their co-producer nickname as “DORA”, agrees that this show could very well be the Filipino Americans’ “Hamilton.”

Both shows debuted with sold-out runs in the same Off Broadway theater, are historical in premise, and feature music that is revolutionary for the ever-evolving genre that is the American musical.

“Every song is a bop and it’s a piece of OUR history told in an entertaining and immersive way, that’s never before experienced on Broadway,” Nicolas Olaes said. Mendoza concludes, “And like ‘Hamilton,’ we believe it’s going to be a hit.”

Preview performances for “Here Lies Love” begin on June 17 and opens on July 20. The general public can purchase tickets online at the show’s website HereLiesLoveBroadway.com.

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