DuJour Navigation
Arielle Jacobs

The Brightest Lights On Broadway: Arielle Jacobs

The actress and singer comes into her own starring as the former Filipina First Lady Imelda Marcos in “Here Lies Love”

Arielle Jacobs has established herself as one of the most versatile performers on Broadway today, both portraying beloved characters and bringing new roles to life. She is best known for her roles on Broadway as Princess Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin, Nessarose in Wicked, and her debut Broadway appearance as Nina Rosario in Into the Heights alongside Lin-Manuel Miranda. Currently, she can be seen on Broadway as former Filipina First Lady Imelda Marcos in Here Lies Love starring an all Filipino cast, directed by Alex Timbers with a score by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim. The immersive disco pop musical has transformed the Broadway Theatre into a dance club where actors perform amongst audiences. We spoke with Jacobs on the occasion of  Here Lies Love‘s opening night to learn more about this lifechanging role.

What have you learned about Imelda Marcos in the course of appearing in Here Lies Love?

Oh my goodness, so much. My mother came from the Philippines as a teenager, but we never talked about the history of the country when I was growing up. So, the main thing that I knew about Imelda Marcos was that she had an immense shoe collection. While researching this role I’ve learned so much. In the show, I play her during her rise and fall over a 40 year time period, from ages 17 to 57, until the People Power Revolution where she, and her husband Ferdinand Marcos, were ousted from power and the country. So, there’s a lot in there. But, the most important thing that I learned about in my research for Here Lies Love was the People Power Revolution. The heroic people of the Philippines reclaimed their democracy in a completely peaceful 4-day protest. Learning about their strength and courage has been so inspiring. Getting to share that story with the world every night is a dream come true.

How do you feel about the immersive aspect of the production?

It is a journey for audiences like nothing they’ve ever experienced in a theatre before. The audience, due to the immersive nature of the show, is cast in the role of “The People of the Philippines” over that 40 year era. So, it’s truly incredible to be telling this story with a new audience as my scene partner every night! I get to interact with them throughout the show, shaking their hands during the presidential campaign, singing to them at the Marcos’s wedding reception, and again later when the audience becomes the protestors in the People Power Revolution itself. As someone who has spent a lifetime in this beautiful theatre community, I truly believe that this show is absolutely the most inventive Broadway show that has ever existed. I am so honored to get to share it with audiences and cannot wait to welcome audiences into this immersive experience every night.

Does the immersive aspect of the production ever affect a night’s performance?

Yes! Because the audience is basically my scene partner over the course of the evening, playing the role of the Filipino people throughout the 40 year timeline of the show, my performance is definitely affected by their energy and presence. The way that we connect as I am immersed in the audience, singing 3 feet away, shaking their hands… it allows me to experience each moment through their eyes, which affects what I bring to each moment. It’s a massive challenge, a thrill, and a gift, to have these special moments of connection with different audience members every night. It is the honor of a lifetime.

What was your experience with theater in New York while you were growing up in Princeton?

I was raised in the Bay Area in California, but was so fortunate when my family moved to Princeton when I was a teenager. I loved living so close to Broadway in NYC!  My parents, who were never involved in the arts (my Mom was a nurse and my Dad was a publisher), were avid theater and music lovers. So they took my brother, Adam Jacobs, and I to see shows a lot!  I guess that made a mark on both of us, since we both wound up starring on Broadway!