Monday, October 26, 2009

Imelda Marcos’ Shoe Collection Merits Own Song, Off-Broadway Musical

Not much rhymes with Ferragamo, but that hasn’t stopped the creators of “Imelda: A New Musical,” an Off Broadway show about the controversial former first lady of the Philippines.
The musical tells the story of Imelda Marcos partly through her footwear; her nearly 3,000 pairs of shoes made her a symbol of the excesses of the regime led by the late Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos. The show has just opened at the Julia Miles Theatre in New York.

Marcos starts out relatively humbly in the production, in nude peep-toe heels, but soon her fortunes improve and her closet goes Hollywood. While future Philippine President Corazon Aquino plods around in brown or black pumps, Ms. Marcos dons eight different pairs of shoes over the course of two acts. About 20 more pairs are used as props.

“She has blue beaded gaudy shoes, but there’s also a really glitzy sparkly silver number, and a gold strappy [pair],” says Ivy Chou, costume designer for the musical, which is produced by the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre. Shoes made up 40% of the $1,500-$2,000 costume budget for Marcos, she says. (Many of the shoes onstage were donated, came from vintage stores or weren’t well-known brands.)

Tisa Chang, artistic producing director of the Pan Asian Repertory, the show’s producer, donated some pairs from her own closet. “The lyrics mention sequined, snakeskin, Ferragamo — I had a few designers they mentioned,” she says. “If you buy a pair that matches a certain outfit you don’t want to throw it out. It becomes kind of an artifact.”

One of the show’s big numbers is called “3,000 Pairs of Shoes.” At the start of the musical, three women who play muses intone: “A shoe collection so unreal, a million drag queens gave a squeal.” Imelda acts mystified by the fuss over her wardrobe: “Why the thrills for my espadrilles?” she sings.

The theater company invited Marcos to see the show, and while they don’t expect to see the 80-year-old “Iron Butterfly” in the house, they’re hoping some of her relatives will show up.
The production attempts to portray a rounded picture of Marcos that goes beyond the corruption that marked the regime. “We really wanted to give a fuller view,” says Chang. “Sometimes time allows us to take another look at people.”

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