This new Flower Drum Song premiered at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum in 2001 before bowing at Broadway's Virginia Theatre (now the August Wilson) in the fall of 2002, where it ran for six months. That production starred Lea Salonga, Jose Llana, Sandra Allen and Randall Duk Kim.
Directed by Gabriel Barre (Summer of '42, MTC's The Wild Party), the San Jose production stars Michelle Liu Coughlin (Nimue in North Shore Music Theatre's Camelot) as Mei-Li, Paolo Montalban (best known as the Prince, opposite Brandy, in ABC's 1997 broadcast of "Cinderella") as Wang Ta, and Northern California native Joseph Anthony Foronda (Pacific Overtures, The Engineer in touring and Broadway Miss Saigon) as Wang Chi-Yang.
Emily Hsu (Spamalot, Side Show original companies) plays the culturally assimilated, good-hearted showgirl Linda Low, a role she understudied as a member of the Broadway revival company. Also featured are Erin Quill (Avenue Q) as Madame Rita Liang, Rod Voltaire-Edora as Harvard and Jared Lee as Chao Hai-Lung. Alvin Ing, who appeared in both the original and revival productions of Pacific Overtures, reprises his performance as Chin, a role added by Hwang and created by Ing in 2001.
Rounding out the ensemble are Jenn Aedo, Kikau Alvaro, Dane Paul Andres, Joven Calloway, Brian Conway, Albert Guerzon, Stephanie Lo, Sumie Maeda, Jonelle Margallo, Mario Martinez, Don Masuda, Theresa Nguyen, Donna Rapa-Olsen, Sung Min Park, Nicole Tung and Erwin Urbi.
Vince Pesce (the current Cinderella international tour) choreographs, with musical direction by William Liberatore. A mail-order bride no longer, the central character of Mei-Li has been reinvented as a refugee who, having escaped communist China, finds herself in San Francisco Chinatown of the late 1950s. According to press notes, "The naïve young [Mei-Li] is befriended by Wang, who is struggling to keep the Chinese Opera theatrical tradition alive despite his son's determination to turn the family theatre into a rowdy nightclub."
Tickets are available by calling (888) 455-SHOW (7469) or by visiting www.amtsj.org.
The San Jose Center for the Performing Arts is located at 255 Almaden Blvd. in San Jose, CA.
American Musical Theatre of San Jose has also announced that it will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Flower Drum Song by hosting a special reception and panel discussion between shows on Sunday, Nov. 9, the final day of performances.
Nancy Kwan, who starred in the 1961 film version, and playwright David Henry Hwang will take part in the two-hour discussion held at San Jose's Crowne Plaza Hotel. Tickets to the event and either the 1 or 6:30 PM performance are priced $87-$115. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Asian Americans for Community Involvement, the Contemporary Asian Theater Scene and Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Northern California.
For more information on the Nov. 9 celebration, call the Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Northern California at (415) 567-5505 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by David M. Allen