Here Lies Love, the immersive new musical created by David Byrne now playing at New York’s Broadway Theatre, has been generating buzz in the theater world and beyond thanks to a range of production elements that set it apart from the typical Broadway experience.

What began more than a decade ago as a Byrne concept album about Imelda Marcos, the dictatorial former first lady of the Philippines, has evolved into a lavish live spectacle featuring additional music by Fatboy Slim, a kinetic stage that simulates a nightclub atmosphere and keeps attendees on their feet throughout the show, and staging that places the performance all around the room, leaving the audience in the thick of the action.

“There’s times when you dance,” said David Byrne of the show, “and there’s times when you’re watching some dramatic thing taking place. That’s kind of what the show is.”

The scope of Here Lies Love’s production grew significantly as it went through subsequent acclaimed productions in London and Seattle in the lead-up to its Broadway debut this year. Its latest iteration is being staged at the Broadway Theatre, one of the largest rooms in New York’s famed theater district.

“We first did the show at least ten years ago at the Public Theater in downtown New York,” said Byrne. “It was the same, basically the same show, much smaller scale, much, much smaller audience.” At the Broadway, in addition to the moving stage in the center of the dance floor, the David Korins-designed set features two 90-foot-long rows of elevated gallery seats flanking and overlooking the left and right sides of the floor, a large mezzanine that extends to the back of the theater, and an exclusive Club Lounge section located just under the front mezzanine. The action makes full use of all of these spaces, placing actors at different spots in the theater and moving them through the crowd as they perform.

In traditional theater, much of the visual and audio stimulus comes from the stage, in front of the audience. Even in shows with large ensembles and detailed blocking meant to draw viewers’ eyes to different corners of the stage, audiences can largely use visual cues to know where to focus their attention at any given moment. Here Lies Love is staged in a way that defies those conventions.

Related: MSG Sphere Immersive Sound Arrives At The Beacon With Help From Trey Anastasio [Photos/Video]

As Byrne explained, “About a third of the audience is on [a] dance floor. We’ve turned the theater into, basically, a dance club. And the actors are moving around on these platforms. Sometimes, we’re crossing into a runway that goes down the middle of the dance floor. … There’s a number of points in the show where the actors, the singers, are in different positions during the same song. … Imelda is on a platform [on one end of the theater] and Marcos [her husband] is in kind of a hospital bed [on the other], and he sings and she responds.”

With so much going on in and around the audience, the production’s sound design became more crucial than ever. It wasn’t enough to make the audience look all around the theater to watch the show. In order to fully realize Byrne’s immersive vision, the sound in the building had to be clear and specific enough to envelop every seat in the narrative, to maintain the focus and energy of the characters’ interactions even as they moved around the theater and wound through the audience.

David Byrne Talks Pioneering Here Lies Love Sound Design

[Video: NYS Music]

That requirement presented some unique challenges for the show’s sound designers, Cody Spencer and M.L. Dogg. The answer to the Here Lies Love audio puzzle came in the form of cutting-edge L-ISA technology from the French sound-tech company L-Acoustics that can deliver highly specified sound to each seat—and chunk of dance floor—in the theater. While the audio technology has been utilized for concerts in the past by a slew of high-profile performing artists including Katy Perry, Bon Iver, Adele, and Brian Eno, Here Lies Love is the first production to bring L-ISA sound to Broadway.

Bringing L-ISA into the Broadway fold for the first time ever is a characteristically forward-thinking move for a project helmed by David Byrne. The legendary art rock auteur has habitually developed game-changing stage productions throughout his decades-long career, from the famed 1983 Talking Heads tour that produced iconic concert film Stop Making Sense to his lauded 2019 Broadway production, American Utopia.

“We chose L-ISA immersive sound [for Here Lies Love] so we could provide the same enveloping immersive experience no matter where the audience is,” said M.L. Dogg. “The focus of the audience, instead of just being on the floor, or the pit, we now have a full mezzanine. … Where L-ISA came in really handy here is to give people up in the mezzanines the experience of sound going around them and not just in front of them.”

Here Lies Love Seating Chart – Broadway Theatrehere lies love, here lies love audio, here lies love broadway, here lies love broadway seating chart

The central cog of the L-ISA system is a processor that can read up to 96 different audio objects as they move, sing, or dance in a constantly changing, 360-degree environment. “We actually have six different zones that we are controlling with two L-ISA Processors, which we’re running in tandem,” Dogg continued. “We have an L-ISA Processor doing the dance floor’s 360-degree sound, and then we have another one for the frontal system, which is the voices in the front with surrounds and stuff all around.” In all, the show’s sound system boasts over 220 individual speakers in a full surround configuration to bring all of the drama and excitement of the poignant story to each member of the audience.

“L-ISA spatial audio gives us the tools we need to quickly and efficiently program a 360-degree experience that conveys the excitement and nuance of each musical moment in the show,” Spencer explained. “On Here Lies Love, whether you’re standing on the floor or you’re sitting up in the mezzanine, you’re really feeling like you’re encompassed and you’re part of the show as opposed to, ‘There’s a proscenium here, and I’m watching the show that’s down there.’”

“You can watch the audience and they’ll hear the sound from behind, and then they know, ‘That’s the performer I need to pay attention to,'” added Dogg. “It really gives us the ability to focus attention.”

“You look around, you’re like, ‘How did they do this?'” Spencer continued of the Here Lies Love audio experience. “To be standing on that dance floor and just hear the voices come at you—whether they’re localized, whether they’re encompassing, however it is—and just the sound come at you, it’s just amazing. I’ve had nights where I’ve teared up just listening to be like, ‘I couldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for this technology.’ The amount of time that we spent to do this is … well worth it in the end, and it’s just amazing that we were able to get here with this. … I am confident this is just the beginning of L-ISA on Broadway.”

Tickets are now available to experience Here Lies Love on Broadway both from traditional seats in the mezzanine and in the thick of the action on the dance floor. Get discounted $49 tickets using the code “HLMUSIC”. For complete ticketing details, click here.