Los Angeles: The Shoe Queen
Gener, Randy, American Theatre
"WHAT'S WRONG WITH SHOES?" the former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos once retorted, in defense of the world-famous collection she had abandoned at the Malacanang palace when a popular revolt forced the Marcos family to flee into exile to Hawaii in 1986. "I collected them because it was like a symbol of thanksgiving and love" for the Filipino people. Almost 20 years later, those locally made, size-eight-and-a-half shoes remain on display in a Manila museum--a symbol of greed, corruption, political repression and extravagance amid the wretched poverty of most Filipinos.
Imelda, a new musical developed by East West Players and the Academy for New Musical Theatre, trots out Marcos's shoes again, this time as a narrative motif--and memory device--for a pop biography that premieres May 5 at the David Henry Hwang Theater in Los Angeles. Says lyricist Aaron Coleman: "After a prologue, the stage becomes a shoe store. Three muses a la Dreamgirls come out as salesgirls. Different characters from Imelda's life"--including her mother and her nemesis, Corazon Aquino--"pick up the shoes and sing. Literally, we take our Imelda through different pairs of shoes and lead her into different parts of her life."
Before she becomes a shoe diva, Imelda is a poor nobody who throws off her tsinelas (sandals) in favor of the stilettos of beauty queens. …