Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)
Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)
Music by Rodgers, Richard | Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II | Book by David Henry Hwang | Based on the original book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joseph Fields and the novel by C.Y. Lee
'To create something new, we must first love what is old,' claims Mei-Li in Tony Award-winner David Henry Hwang's new adaptation of this Rodgers and Hammerstein jewel. The sentiment is obviously shared by the author himself, who has created something dazzlingly new while honoring the original material. Mei-Li flees Mao's communist China after the murder of her father and finds herself in San Francisco's Chinatown. This naïve young refugee is befriended by Wang, who is struggling to keep the Chinese opera tradition alive despite his son's determination to turn the old opera house into a swingin' Western-style nightclub. A unique blending of American razz-ma-tazz and stylized Chinese opera traditions creates a beautifully theatrical tapestry. The wonderful score, by turns lushly romantic and showbiz-brassy, retains all of its luster in this lovely new version of an American classic. Mei-Li's gradual assimilation is informed by her realization that the old and new can coexist when there is respect for both. It is in that spirit that R&H Theatricals makes available both the original and new versions of FLOWER DRUM SONG.
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History for Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)

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Trivia for Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)

The birthday of David Henry Hwang, who was inspired to write a new book for Rodgers & Hammerstein's FLOWER DRUM SONG that earned him a Tony nomination for the 2003 revival.
In 2003, David Henry Hwang's new version of FLOWER DRUM SONG closed on Broadway after 169 performances and three Tony nominations.
In 2002, a new version of FLOWER DRUM SONG with an updated book by David Henry Hwang opened at the Virginia Theatre, where it ran for 169 performances and recieved three Tony nominations.
In 1960 FLOWER DRUM SONG opened at the Palace Theatre, London, and ran for 464 performances.
In 1958, the world premiere of FLOWER DRUM SONG was presented at the Shubert Theatre, Boston.
In 1958, FLOWER DRUM SONG opened at the St. James Theatre, New York, and ran for 600 performances.
In 1960 the national tour of FLOWER DRUM SONG began at the Riviera Theatre, Detroit and played in twenty-two cities before closing at the Hanna Theatre, Cleveland, on October 14, 1961.

 Press for Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)

  • Quotes
"Rodgers has composed one of his more persuasive scores, and Hammerstein has written lyrics that are moody and amusing...a delight; everything about it is just right." — New York Daily Mirror, January 01, 1958
"Another notable work by the outstanding craftsmen of our musical theatre...a lovely show, an outstanding one in theme and treatment." — New York Daily Mirror, January 01, 1958
"FLOWER DRUM SONG continues to live and breathe, and sing, as joyously as it did three and a half decades in the past...Revolutionary for its time, it continues to be so in ours." — Inside Asian America, January 01, 2001

Musical Numbers for Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)

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“To create something new,” says a character in David Henry Hwang's script for FLOWER DRUM SONG, “we must first love what is old.” For Mr. Hwang, this is the guiding philosophy for what is arguably—and controversially—the most radical reinterpretation yet of a Broadway musical.

FLOWER DRUM SONG has always held a unique place among the R&H musicals. Coming late in their career—after two consecutive, and rare, Broadway flops (ME AND JULIET and PIPE DREAM) and one hugely successful television musical (CINDERELLA)—it once held its own against mega-popular hits like OKLAHOMA! and THE KING AND I. However, as fashions changed, so did its fortunes. “Oscar Hammerstein referred to it as their 'lucky hit,'” R&H President Ted Chapin told the Los Angeles Times. “Unlike the rest of the canon, it didn't live on with the same kind of force as some of their other musicals.”

The original production, though, was a hit indeed, running for 600 performances, making stars of its leads Miyoshi Umeki and Pat Suzuki (landing them on the cover of Time —Suzuki was the first American-born Asian to enjoy such an honor), launching a London production, a U.S. National tour and becoming one of R&H’s strongest titles in the summer stock (and Vegas) circuits of the early ’60s. A 1961 movie version, starring Umeki, Nancy Kwan, James Shigeta and Jack Soo, was also a huge hit with profound implications for Asian Americans.

“FLOWER DRUM SONG represented a real breakthrough for our parents,” Hwang told Performing Arts. “It portrayed a Chinese American family that was 100% American, and characters who didn't all speak in accents, who were sympathetic and had romantic relationships—which, by the way, we still don't see much in movies today.” In a 1996 appraisal for lnside Asian America, journalist Yuan-Kwan Chan observed: “It was the first—and so far, the last—film by a major U.S. studio in which Asians or Pacific Islanders play all the major roles Revolutionary for its time, it continues to be so in ours. ” In Los Angeles Magazine, Nancy Kwan recalled, “This was the first big movie about Asian Americans. They spent money on sets, costumes, dance numbers, and they made money. That all said something important.”

Nevertheless, by the time Hwang was a student at Stanford University in the late '70s, attitudes towards FLOWER DRUM SONG—including his own—had changed. “We were deep into issues of identity politics,” he recalled in an interview with the Daily Breeze. “We were so politically correct, I think I felt a need to demonize FLOWER DRUM SONG on principle.” In Performing Arts, he elaborated: “In retrospect, I think the protest was probably necessary. Asian Americans were beginning to write about themselves. We felt a need to repudiate the way non-Asians had written about us. Which meant repudiating FLOWER DRUM SONG.
“But even back then people would, in private, admit that they liked the show. How could they not? For us boomers, it was our first opportunity as kids to see Asian Americans singing and dancing in a Broadway play and Hollywood musical...As a kid I had liked it. As a young man I rejected it. Now I'm trying to reconcile that and find some middle ground.”

That reconciliation began in Siam—specifically, the Siam depicted in the 1996 Tony-winning Broadway revival of THE KING AND I. “I really enjoyed it,” Hwang told the started thinking of other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals that I'd like to see again, and that led to FLOWER DRUM SONG.” He added, “I knew there was a lot to like and a lot not to like.” Revisiting FLOWER DRUM SONG, he thought, would provide him with “a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with two of the greatest artists of this century,” as he told Playbill. “It would be fun to create a new musical using the wonderful score that had been written for the original.”

In 1996, Hwang met with Ted Chapin, Mary Rodgers and the late James Hammerstein to make his case. (Jamie had been a stage manager on the original Broadway show and subsequently directed several productions of FLOWER DRUM SONG.) At that meeting, Hwang recalled, “I told them I wanted to remain true to the show's original sensibility and themes, its sense of cockeyed optimism, while giving it more of the dramatic weight the great Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals have. I wanted to write the book that Oscar Hammerstein would have written if he'd been Asian-American. Instead of being a tourist's-eye view of Chinatown, I wanted to write it from the point of view of the inside looking out.”

The rights holders (including Ralph Fields, the son of co-librettist Joseph Fields) liked what they heard from Hwang and decided to say yes. “We went into it understanding that if we were going to go ahead with this experiment,” Chapin told the Los Angeles Times, “we had to be open to it.”

After an early draft that was, in Chapin's words, “totally unproduceable,” Hwang hit his stride with a script he developed in tandem with director Robert Longbottom and music director David Chase. A new musical began to emerge—one that stayed true to the basic settings and principal characters of FLOWER DRUM SONG while rearranging those characters and their situations into an almost entirely new plot, an amalgam of Hammerstein, Fields, the original novelist C.Y. Lee, and Hwang himself. Its theme, one that runs through much of Hwang's work, is assimilation. “The issue of assimilation hasn't dated,” Chapin told American Theatre. “In fact it's very universal. What's dated is the idea that the height of being American is getting a Thunderbird and a TV set, which is partly what the original show conveyed. Today when you come to America, it's important to hold on to some of what you brought with you, and David wanted to look into that.”

Vital to this re-telling was the score, kept almost intact. (Two songs were cut and one, “My Best Love,” was restored. One other number, “The Next Time It Happens” from PIPE DREAM, was interpolated.) “I like our demonic reputation of not wanting to change anything,” Chapin told Performing Arts. “It's a good reputation to have because then, when someone like David comes along with a proposal, we can really surprise people. We've allowed more wholesale revisions than we might with any other show," he added, "because this show may be more caught in its time than Rodgers and Hammerstein's other works.”

“I didn't sit down thinking, 'I need to fix the old FLOWER DRUM SONG,'” Hwang told American Theatre. “I thought, here's an opportunity to tell a story about assimilation and immigration, but do it in collaboration with Rodgers and Hammerstein, who created this wonderful score around those themes. It meant working with great music that already existed, and trying to make that music flower around a story that would thematically bear out some of their own initial ideas.”

With a sensational, fully Asian/Asian-American cast starring Tony winner Lea Salonga, FLOWER DRUM SONG opened at the Virginia Theatre on October 17. The original 1958 production was the first Broadway musical to deal with the Asian-American experience; the 2002 production is only the second. The sense of history, therefore, was palpable—not only on opening night, but from the earliest previews; and not only from the audience (which, from the start, included a steadily growing contingent of Asian-American theatregoers) but from the performers themselves.

Alvin Ing, who played the character of Chin in the new version, had played the role of Wang Ta in the original production's national tour and went on to play that role in more productions than any other actor. Jodi Long, Madame Liang in this production, spent part of her childhood backstage at the St. James Theatre during the original run where her father, Larry Leung, was in the cast.

The original company of FLOWER DRUM SONG stayed together as a family over the years, and was famous for its periodic reunions. An especially meaningful reunion occurred in early October, when over a dozen members of the Broadway, National Tour and film casts attended a preview performance of the new FLOWER DRUM SONG. Among them were Cely Carrillo (a Mei-Li in the original Broadway run), Susan Kikuchi (a child performer in the original Broadway cast, whose mother, Yuriko, appeared in original casts of FLOWER DRUM SONG and THE KING AND I), and Luther Henderson, Jr., creator of the original dance arrangements. Arabella Hong, who introduced “Love, Look Away” in 1958, and Pat Suzuki, the inimitable original Linda Low, are both ardent fans of this version and each came to see it several times during previews, and again on opening night.

Audience response from the start was enthusiastic. Critical reaction, however, was divided, with the nay-sayers falling into two contradictory camps: those who felt that any reworking of the original version was a desecration, and those who wondered why Hwang had made the effort. R&H President Ted Chapin defends the production simply: “We take risks,” he says. “That's what Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein did when they were around, and that's what their heirs continue to do. It's about having confidence in the durability of the works themselves, and being open to new ideas.”

Still, for most critics, the risks paid off. "This little-performed 1958 musical," said David Cote in Time Out, "shines in this jubilant, top-to-bottom revision. David Henry Hwang's wised-up book adds more humor and political savvy [and] fits perfectly into Robert Longbottom's seductive and opulent revival." NY-1 critic Roma Torre reported, "FLOWER DRUM SONG has been brought back to life, thanks to David Henry Hwang's funny, hip, politically correct sensibility, and Robert Longbottom's impressive direction and choreography." John Heilpern of the Observer felt that Hwang and Longbottom "worked brilliantly...to create a new Broadway show of high and low seriousness, which was Rodgers and Hammerstein's intention in the first place." In USA Today, Elysa Gardner observed, "Hwang and Longbottom have retained the show's irresistible sweetness and added more of the unabashed grandeur that distinguishes Rodgers and Hammerstein's best-loved material. And David Chase's new adaptations of Rodgers' music, much of which is presented in new contexts, are rapturous."


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Writers Notes for Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)

Playbill interview with Andrew Gans
Written By: David Henry Hwang

When I was a kid, I generally had this policy of avoiding plays or movies or TV shows with Asians because they always made me feel kind of icky, but FLOWER DRUM SONG was an exception in the sense that you had an actual love story between an Asian man and an Asian woman, which you still don\'t see much of today. You had a younger generation that acted pretty much American, and you had this great score and these wonderful dance numbers. And, it also established a generation of Asian stars for my parents—that whole era—and, for me, it was one of the few things I saw on television as a kid that I could at all relate to. So, it actually had a lot of meaning to me as a kid.I think it was incredibly brave of [Rodgers and Hammerstein to write the show], and it was incredibly brave of them also to do it with an all-Asian cast. I think this probably relates to—this is just my own theory—Hammerstein with CARMEN JONES and having those sorts of breakthroughs. I think, probably, it was part of their principles or their agenda to be able to present this other minority group as being Americans like everybody else. Over the years, that concept of what it means to be American like everybody else has sort of dated a bit. You can quibble whether this part of the original FLOWER DRUM SONG is authentic or not, [but] I think it was authentically felt, and I think their intentions were pretty radical. [The production is being billed as a new musical.] If you ask me, I think the best word for it is a remake. It\'s most analogous to "Ocean\'s Eleven" or David Cronenberg\'s "The Fly," where you take something that existed before and you build a new piece on it. Now does that make it a new musical? I don\'t know; that\'s up to producers and critics and other people to decide. It doesn\'t fit neatly into other traditional categories.

Performance Tools for Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)

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Rental Materials for Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)

STANDARD

  • FLOWER DRUM SONG (HWANG) - Orchestration Package (20 Books/19 Players)
    • 1 – Piano Conductor Scores
    • 1 – REED I (see note below)
    • 1 – REED II (Flute, Clarinet & Alto Sax)
    • 1 – REED III (Oboe, English Horn, Flute, Clarinet & Tenor Sax)
    • 1 – REED IV (Bass Clarinet, Bassoon & Baritone Sax)
    • 1 – HORN
    • 1 – TRUMPET I (Doubling Flugelhorn)
    • 1 – TRUMPET II (Doubling Flugelhorn)
    • 1 – TROMBONE (Doubling Bass Trombone)
    • 1 – GUITAR (Acoustic, Archtop, Electric, Banjo, Ukulele, Mandolin and Pipa)
    • 1 – KEYBOARD (see Keyboard Book for breakdown)
    • 1 – HARP
    • 1 – DRUMS
    • 2 – PERCUSSION (see "Materials Notes", under "Production Information")
    • 1 – VIOLIN I (Doubling Violin)
    • 1 – VIOLIN II
    • 1 – VIOLA (Doubling Violin)
    • 1 – CELLO (Doubling Ehru)
    • 1 – BASS
  • Rehearsal Set (22 Books)
    • 20 – Libretto/Vocal Books
    • 1 – Logo CD
    • 2 – Piano Conductor Scores
    • Digital Logo

ADDITIONAL

  • Libretto/Vocal Books 10 p
    • 10 – Libretto/Vocal Books
  • FLOWER DRUM (HWANG) - PRE-PRODUCTION PACKAGE
    • 1 – Libretto/Vocal Books
    • 1 – Piano Conductor Scores

Cast Requirements for Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)

PRINCIPALS
3 Women
5 Men

ENSEMBLE
A large singing-dancing chorus consisting of Citizens of the People's Republic of China, Communist Party Members, Mei-Li's Father, Soldiers, Refugees, Chinese Opera Company Members, Immigrants, Showgirls, Chorus Boys, A Ghost Couple, Stage Manager, Photographers, Reporters, Factory Workers, Emigrants, Warrior Dancers, Maiden Dancer, Wedding Guests and Citizens of San Francisco Chinatown.

CHARACTERS
Wu Mei-Li - a new immigrant from China, in her twenties
Wang Chi-Yang - a Chinese opera actor and immigrant to San Francisco, in his fifties
Wang Ta - his Chinese American son, in his twenties
Chin - an old family friend of the Wangs, a Chinese man in his sixties
Linda Low - a Chinese American showgirl, in her twenties
Harvard - a Chinese American, in his twenties
Madame Rita Liang - a Chinese American talent agent, in her forties
Chao Hai-Lung - a new immigrant from China, in his twenties
Mr. Chong - the Chinese American owner of the On Leock Fortune Cookie Factory
Mr. Lee - a Chinese American restaurant owner
Citizens of the People's Republic of China, Communist Party Members, Mei-Li's Father, Soldiers, Refugees, Chinese Opera Company Members, Immigrants, Showgirls, Chorus Boys, A Ghost Couple, Stage Manager, Photographers, Reporters, Factory Workers, Emigrants, Warrior Dancers, Maiden Dancer, Wedding Guests and Citizens of San Francisco Chinatown.

This version of FLOWER DRUM SONG is set in China, and San Francisco’s Chinatown, 1960. All of the characters are Chinese or Chinese-American. It is this author’s hope that these roles be cast with actors of Asian ancestry whenever possible. Barring that, the author discourages the use of make-up or prosthetics to alter an actor’s ethnicity, or requests at the least that the use of such devices be kept to a minimum. --David Henry Hwang

Set Requirements for Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version)

FLOWER DRUM SONG takes place in various locales in San Francisco's Chinatown circa 1960.

SPECIFIC LOCATIONS
The Golden Pearl Theatre in San Francisco Chinatown
Linda's Dressing Room
Onstage at the Theatre
Backstage
Club Shop Suey
The On Leock Fortune Cookie Factory
The Golden Dragon Restaurant
The San Francisco Docks

Materials Notes

REED I Doubling: Flute, Alto Flute, Piccolo, Dizis in C, D, Eb, F (high) & B, Bamboo [Bonsuri] Flutes in E (low), F (high) and G)
(See percussion book for specific details): Cymbals, Triangle, Xylophone, Toms, Concert Bass Drum, Gongs, Bell Tree, Finger Cymbals, Crotales, Cabasa, Glockenspiel, Vibraslap, Vibraphone, Timpani, Dragon Drums, Marimba, Bamboo Chimes, Rain Stick, Brass Bell, Castanets, Shakers, Congas, Temple Blocks, Mark Tree, Wood Blocks, Sarons, Guiro, Tambourine, Bongos, Baos, Cow Bell, Whip (Slapstick), Ratchet, Tuned Water Bowl.

Media Rights

Promotional

1. The Promotional Video shall be recorded and shown for the sole purposes of advertising your licensed production of the Play. For such a video, R&H allows theatres to film up to 10 minutes of total footage taken at either a performance or rehearsal (i.e.: 10 minutes of scripted moments.)

2. The Promotional Video may not include more than (i) 1 minute from any song or (ii) 3 minutes, in the aggregate, of footage of copyrighted material from the Play.

3. The Promotional Video may not include any sponsorship or underwriting without the prior consent of all R&H.

4. The Promotional Video must be submitted to R&H by sending the source video and video link to editor@rnh.com.

5. The Promotional Video must include the following: "Rights courtesy of Rodgers & Hammerstein, www.rnh.com"

6. Upon approval by R&H of the Promotional Video, you agree not to make any alterations in the approved copyrighted material used therein and you agree to obtain the prior written approval of R&H for any other use of the Promotional Video not specifically granted herein.

7. Upon termination of the Term, you shall cease to have any rights to use the Promotional Video including, without limitation, in connection with a future production of the Play, and shall immediately remove its content from any and all websites on the Internet.

8. You may not use a commercially available recording.

9. Any additional promotional rights must be approved by R&H by contactingTheatre@rnh.com.

 

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Archival

1. Subject to the information provided in Licensee’s application and payment of the fee as set forth in Paragraph 3 herein, Licensee shall have the right to create a single copy of the Video for internal archival, private viewing purposes at Licensee’s address only and shall not be re-copied, distributed or otherwise exploited, in whole or in part, in any media now known or hereafter developed without the prior written approval of R&H. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the Video shall not be (i) sold to anyone (ii) telecast by any television station or network, including, without limitation, any local cable station or (iii) distributed, exhibited or otherwise exploited over the Internet or as part of any online auction.

2. Licensee agrees to include the following language at the beginning of the Video:

©Year By R&H Theatricals. This production was videotaped by special arrangement with R&H Theatricals for archival purposes only. All Rights Reserved.

WARNING: Federal law provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution or exhibition of copyrighted motion pictures, videotapes or videodiscs. Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by the FBI and may constitute a felony with a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000.00 fine.

This Video is provided to you for private, organizational and home viewing purposes only. By accepting the Video, you agree not to authorize or permit the Video to be copied, distributed, broadcast, telecast or otherwise exploited, in whole or in part, in any media now known or hereafter developed.

*You must be and licensed to present Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version) in order to license Archival rights. Please contact customer service with any questions.

Distribution

1. Licensee shall have the right to create the Video and to make up to one hundred (100) copies of the Video for sale at cost to its Members for internal archival, private viewing purpose at Licensee’s address and for private, home-viewing purpose by Members, and shall not be re-copied, distributed or otherwise exploited, in whole or in part, in any media now known or hereafter developed without the prior written approval of R&H. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the Video shall not be (i) sold to anyone other than the Members (ii) telecast by any television station or network, including, without limitation, any local cable station or (iii) distributed, exhibited or otherwise exploited over the Internet or as part of any online auction.

2. Licensee agrees to include the following language at the beginning of the Video:

©Year By R&H Theatricals. This production was videotaped by special arrangement with R&H Theatricals for archival purposes only. All Rights Reserved. WARNING: Federal law provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution or exhibition of copyrighted motion pictures, videotapes or videodiscs. Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by the FBI and may constitute a felony with a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000.00 fine. This Video is provided to you for private, organizational and home viewing purposes only. By accepting the Video, you agree not to authorize or permit the Video to be copied, distributed, broadcast, telecast or otherwise exploited, in whole or in part, in any media now known or hereafter developed.

*You must be and licensed to present Flower Drum Song (Hwang Version) in order to license Distribution rights. Please contact customer service with any questions.
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