I am going to like it here," Tony Award-winner Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon) will sing Oct. 2, leading the company of David Henry Hwang's heavily revised Flower Drum Song, making its premiere at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. The classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about the Asian experience in America opens Oct. 14. Robert Longbottom (Side Show, The Scarlet Pimpernel) directs and choreographs.
Jose Llana, last seen at L.A.'s Ahamanson Theatre as the villainous Guillaume in Martin Guerre, romances Salonga in the rewritten Flower Drum Song. Llana most recently appeared on Broadway as Angel in Rent. Other credits include The King and I (Lun Tha, recent revival cast), The Ballad of Little Jo, Saturn Returns and New York Shakespeare Festival's On the Town in Central Park.
Salonga made her mark as Kim, the Vietnamese prostitute who falls in love with an American solider during the Vietman War. Salonga won 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 Yang-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 pulled 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. The reimagined Flower Drum Song is the story of Asians living in San Francisco's world-famous Chinatown circa 1960, as some of the newcomers to America attempt to assimilate amid prejudice from the anglo and Chinese worlds. A Chinese opera company struggles with its success as a Western nightclub, run by the opera owner's rebellious son. Meanwhile, Communist Chinese 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. Instead, she finds true love.
Flower Drum Song features the tunes "A Hundred Million Miracles," "I Enjoy Being a Girl," "I Am Going to Like It Here," "Chop Suey," "Grant 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").
Also in the cast are Sandra Allen, Charlene Carabeo, Rich Ceraulo, Eric Chan, Marcus Choi, Michael Dow, Vivien Eng, Alvin Ing, Thomas C. Kouo, Keri Lee, Allen Liu, Jodi Long, Tzi Ma, Blythe Matsui, Marc Oka, Robert Pendilla, Chloe Stewart, Kim Varhola and Christine Yasunaga.
Tickets can be purchased by calling (213) 628-2772. The Mark Taper Forum is located at 135 N. Grand Ave. and on the web at http://www.taperahmanson.com.