The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization could not confirm a reported May date for a preliminary reading of David Henry Hwang's rewritten version of the R&H musical, Flower Drum Song, but said that director Robert Longbottom is attached to the producer-less exploratory project.
Bert Fink of R&H told Playbill On-Line April 30 that Hwang does have the organization's blessing -- and the OK from the estate of late co-librettist Joseph Fields -- to reapproach the 1958 musical from an Asian-American perspective. Hwang is going back the original C.Y. Lee novel for material and inspiration and has consulted Lee.
Fink said Hwang, whose M. Butterfly earned a Best Play Tony Award in 1988, has always been fascinated by the musical comedy, written by caucasian Americans Fields, co-librettist and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II and composer Richard Rodgers (drawing from Lee's novel), set in San Francisco's Chinatown in the 1950s.
In 1998, Hwang told Playbill On-Line there are "a lot of wonderful things about the musical and some things that are outdated. I’m just happy to have the opportunity."
The still "very embryonic process" of the reconceived script is expected to lead to a private reading, but Fink said no date has been given to R&H yet. "We want them to have the freedom and room to explore" the material, Fink said. Flower Drum Song tells the story of nightclub owner Sammy Fong, set to marry Mei Li, fresh from China, but in love with Linda Low, a dancer in his club. A film version was produced in 1961.
Hwang's Golden Child was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Play in 1998.
Flower Drum Song was first presented on Dec. 1, 1958, at the St. James Theatre on Broadway, under the direction of Gene Kelly. The cast included Miyoshi Umeki and Pat Suzuki. Among the show’s songs are "You Are Beautiful," "Sunday," "Grant Avenue," "I Enjoy Being a Girl," and "Love, Look Away."
On May 18, Sony Legacy will re-release the digitally remastered Columbia Broadway Masterworks cast album of Flower Drum Song on CD.