The revised and refreshed Flower Drum Song, now on Broadway at the Virginia Theatre, will spawn a cast album, to be released on the DRG Records label.
The company, led by Lea Salonga, will commit the Rodgers and Hammerstein score (including "My Best Love," which was cut from the original 1958 production) to disc Oct. 21, toward a release of Jan. 7, 2003.
The current reworking of Flower Drum Song has an all-new book by David Henry Hwang, inspired by the C.Y. Lee novel and the original libretto by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joseph Fields. Official opening is scheduled for Oct. 17.
Flower Drum Song originally opened at Broadway's St. James Theatre on Dec. 1, 1958. Directed by Gene Kelly and choreographed by Carol Haney, the cast featured Larry Blyden as Sammy Fong, Pat Suzuki as Linda Low, Miyoshi Umeki as Mei-Li, Juanita Hall as Madam Lian, Arabella Hong as Helen Chao and Ed Kenney as Wang Ta. It ran 600 performances. The classic score features such tunes as "Sunday," "A Hundred Million Miracles," "I Enjoy Being a Girl," "I Am Going to Like It Here," "Chop Suey," "Grant Avenue" and "Love, Look Away," "Don't Marry Me" and more.
Decca recently released the film version's soundtrack on CD, and Sony had previously re-released the original cast album on disc. *
Salonga, the Tony-winning star of Miss Saigon, plays Mei-Li, a Chinese immigrant who arrives in San Francisco. In a recent interview for Playbill On-Line, Salonga spoke about her character: "Her name is Mei-Li, and she is an illegal Chinese immigrant, having been shipped in a crate from China, and she finds herself in San Francisco, finds herself sort of adopted by this family in a Chinese opera theatre/night club. She falls in love with Ta, and basically everybody takes her under their wing, but a lot of things happen that burst her bubble and her ideal picture about what America is. She does have to struggle a little bit and comes to who she is at the end of the show, and she comes to that place on her own terms."
Ta, Mei-Li's love interest in the musical, is being portrayed by Jose Llana, who starred in the Broadway companies of Rent, Street Corner Symphony and The King and I.
The cast includes Randall Duk Kim (Master Wang), Jodi Long (Madame Liang), Sandra Allen (Linda Low), Alvin Ing (Chin), Allen Liu (Harvard), Hoon Lee (Chao) and Ma-Anne Dionisio (Little Girl). The ensemble comprises Susan Ancheta, Raul Aranas, Rich Ceraulo, Eric Chan, Marcus Choi, Emily Hsu, Telly Leung, J. Elaine Marcos, Daniel May, Marc Oka, Lainie Sakakura, Yuka Takara, Robert Tatad, Kim Varhola and Ericka Yang.
The new staging's creative team also includes Robin Wagner (sets), Gregg Barnes (costumes), Natasha Katz (lighting), ACME Sound Partners (sound), Don Sebesky (orchestrations), Seymour Red Press (musical coordinator), David Brian Brown (hair), Perry Cline (production stage manager), Tom Kosis (associate director), Darlene Wilson (associate choreographer) and Jamie H. J. Guan (Chinese Opera consultant).
Hwang told Playbill On-Line: "Flower Drum Song has been a landmark event for Asian-Americans in each of its incarnations. The novel by C. Y. Lee was the first novel by a Chinese-American to be published by a major publishing house and the first to become a best-seller. The Broadway musical was the first to feature and star Asian Americans, and the 1961 movie was also the first Hollywood movie to do so, and it was not repeated until 1993 when The Joy Luck Club was released, so we consider this to be a very precious legacy. We're all thrilled to be entrusted with this legacy, and we hope we do well by it."
Directed by Henry Koster, the 1961 USA film starred Nancy Kwan as Linda Low, James Shigeta as Wang Ta, Benson Fong as Wang, Jack Soo as Sammy Fong, Juanita Hall as Madame "Auntie" Liang, Reiko Sato as Helen Chao, Patrick Adiarte as Wang San, Kam Tong as Doctor Li, Victor Sen Yung as Frankie Wing, and Soo Yong as Madame Fong.
The Virginia Theatre is at 245 West 52nd Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. From Sept. 23 to Oct. 19, Flower Drum Song will play Monday through Saturday evenings at 8 PM, with matinees Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 PM. Beginning Oct. 22, performances are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, with matinees Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 PM and Sundays at 3 PM. Tickets, priced between $65 and $95, are available by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200.
This revised version of Flower Drum Song premiered at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum to much acclaim.