"I'm Going to Like It Here." That will hopefully be the sentiment of Tony Award winner Lea Salonga, starring as Chinese picture bride Mei Li in the Mark Taper Forum revival of Flower Drum Song, playing Oct. 2-Dec. 2 in Los Angles. Robert Longbottom (Side Show, The Scarlet Pimpernel) will mount the musical with a revised book by David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly).
Salonga made her mark as Kim, the Vietnamese prostitute who falls in love with an American solider during the Vietman War, winning herself an Olivier and Tony Award for Best Actress. She reprised the role on Broadway twice, including the final months of the ten-year run. Other credits include Les Miserables, My Fair Lady, Into the Woods and They're Playing Our Song.
Salonga recently lent her voice to another musical about the Asian immigrant experience in America, Welly Wang- Brian Yorkey-Woody Pak's Making Tracks. She and Hwang worked on a benefit performance of the new musical in May.
Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre had had to pull their planned production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song in December, 2000 when funds couldn't be raised to mount the show on the cavernous Center Group main stage. The Mark Taper Forum, the Group's smaller venue, stepped in to save the Hwang revision, adding it to their 2001-02 season.
Flower Drum Song is the story of Asians living in San Francisco's world-famous Chinatown, as some of the new Americans attempt to assimilate amid prejudice from the anglo and Chinese worlds. Linda Low, the nightclub singer, is committed to the club's owner Sammy Fong, but her eyes wander to handsome Wang Ta, when Fong won't marry her. Meanwhile, picture bride Mei Li (Salonga) travels to the United States in a crate, avoiding immigration's quota on Chinese immigrants and hoping to find a husband before she's deported. Flower Drum Song features the tunes "A Hundred Million Miracles," "I Enjoy Being a Girl," "I Am Going to Like It Here," "Chop Suey," "Grand Avenue," "Love, Look Away" and "The Other Generation." A film version was made in 1961, featuring Nancy Kwan ("The World of Suzy Wong"), James Shigeta and Jack Soo ("Barney Miller"). *
Following Flower Drum Song at the Forum will be three West Coast premieres: Michael Frayn's Copenhagen, presented at the Wilshire Theatre, Israel Horowitz's My Old Lady and Athol Fugard's Sorrows and Rejoicings.
The Tony Award-winning Copenhagen kicks off its national tour in Los Angeles. Michael Blakemore, a Tony winner for his direction, directs the tour, running Nov. 20-Jan. 6, 2002.
My Old Lady finds New Yorker Mathias arriving in Paris with hopes of selling the valuable property his father bequeathed him. Too bad his way to easy money is blocked by the apartment's 90-year-old tenant Mathilde and Chloe, whom he can't legally evict. Now penniless, Mathias is forced to move in with the women, who teach him about love and life. David Esbjornson (The Play About the Baby) directs the comedy, running Dec. 9-Feb. 3, 2002.
May 12-June 30, the Taper Forum hosts the West Coast premiere of Fugard's latest, Sorrows and Rejoicings. This new drama set in Karoo recognizes the old South Africa and the new through the story of a white poet-protestor who left his homeland for England during Apartheid and returns after the racist system has been brought down. Fugard will direct his play, which had its world premiere this month at Princeton's McCarter Theatre.
Also in the Mark Taper Forum season are The Moliere Comedies, starring Tony Award winner Brian Bedford as Sganarelle in both The School for Husbands and The Imaginary Cuckold. The Moliere Comedies play Feb. 9-April 7, 2002.
Completing the offerings is the Chay Yew adaptation of Frederico Garcia Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba, running July 14-Sept. 1, 2002. When the production debuted in New York City in Dec., 2000, twenty-two Asian-American actresses including Obie winner Ching Valdes Aran (Flipzoids) and Tony Award nominee Julyana Soelistyo (Golden Child) portrayed the women of a remote farming village where new widow Bernarda Alba declares her five daughters will remain within her house for eight years of mourning. While Bernarda's mad, aged mother rages, the eldest daughter courts a suitor, who captures the heart of the youngest. The daughters become overwhelmingly jealous in their forced captivity and the end result is another tragic death.
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