David Byrne’s upcoming production, Here Lies Love, is encountering opposition from a labor union representing Broadway musicians. The American Federation of Musicians, Local 802, has raised concerns about the production’s decision to utilize pre-recorded tracks instead of a live band for the musical, which is set to have previews in the coming month.
According to The New York Times, Local 802 has a contract with the Broadway League stipulating that musicals at the Broadway Theatre must employ a minimum of 19 musicians. However, Byrne’s play about the former First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, currently lacks any full-time instrumentalists, thus falling short of the union’s quota.
Tino Gagliardi, president of the union, expressed their disapproval to The New York Times, stating, “We’re not going to stand by and let this happen. It’s not fair to the public.”
The musical’s producers have been striving to persuade the Broadway League to classify Here Lies Love as a “special situation,” which would allow for a smaller ensemble of musicians. Adrian Bryan-Brown, the spokesman for Here Lies Love, mentioned that they are awaiting a decision from the League and will continue to cooperate in good faith with the union until a verdict is reached.
According to the Times, Bryan-Brown defended the use of pre-recorded tracks, stating, “Since Here Lies Love was first conceived 17 years ago, every production has been performed to prerecorded tracks; this is part of the karaoke genre inherent to the musical and the production concept. The music for Here Lies Love was inspired by the phenomena of ‘track acts,’ which allowed club audiences to keep dancing, much like this production aims to do.”
If everything goes as planned, Here Lies Love, which was co-written by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, will commence previews on June 17 and open on July 20. Notably, the musical has previously had off-Broadway runs in Seattle and London.