FLOWER DRUM SONG
a musical play in two acts by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joseph Fields, based on the novel by C.Y. Lee. Music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.
Opened at the St. James Theatre, New York, 1 December 1958 with Miyoshi Umeki (Mei Li), Larry Blyden (Sammy Fong) and Ed Kenney (Wang Ta). Opened at the Palace Theatre, London, 24 March 1960 with Yau Shan Tung, Tim Herbert and Kevin Scott. A film version was issued by Universal-International Pictures in 1961 with Miyoshi Umeki, Jack Soo and James Shigeta.
Palace Theatre, London - 24 March 1960.
This less appreciated creation of Rodgers and Hammerstein is long overdue for re-evaluation. Leaving the world of the musical play, the writers reverted to musical comedy, in this case set in San Francisco's Chinatown. The story concerns the generation gap between the old world Chinese who cling to traditional values, and the new world Chinese who see themselves as Americans who should adopt Western values and lifestyles. The ending, in the tradition of all comedies, is happy with all the protagonists finding their true loves.
In the house of Master Wang Chi Yang, a wealthy patriarch of San Francisco's Chinatown, his elder son Wang Ta explains to his aunt Madam Liang how his dreams are troubled by girls, and sings her an old familiar Chinese love-song that he is preparing for that evening's blind date (You Are Beautiful), and she joins in nostalgically. His father returns home, having just been robbed of a $100 bill - he finds life in America difficult, particularly the idea of using a bank instead of a box under the bed! Sammy Fong, a successful and completely Westernised young man, arrives to suggest to Wang that his 'picture bride' just arrived from Hong Kong would be better suited to Wang Ta, as she is too sweet and obedient for his combative tastes. He introduces Mei Li and her father Dr. Li; Wang is favourably impressed, the girl is from a good family and born in the right year -what is more, she can sing the well-loved Flower Drum Song, and modestly obliges (A Hundred Million Miracles).
Ta's blind date is with Linda, a very Americanised Chinese girl, who makes a powerful pass at him (I Enjoy Being a Girl) and they agree to marry, if the necessary consents can be obtained.
The next day, in Wang's house, all is bustle. A banker is counting Wang's cash to open an account for him, Wang is grudgingly being fitted for a Western suit for Ta's graduation ceremony and Helen Chao the seamstress (who is sweet on Ta) has arrived with his specially made gown. Mei Li is mesmerised when Ta enters, wearing gown and mortarboard, and as the family leaves for the ceremony, she sings "I Am Going to Like It Here".
Wang has bought Mei Li a Western dress for the evening's party and Ta is obviously taken with her appearance (Like a God), but he has already invited Linda and her brother. At the party, Madam Liang leads many of the community in celebrating the great diversity of American life, which she calls "Chop Suey". Linda and her brother Commodore Frankie Low arrive; he confronts Wang with the news of Linda's engagement to Ta, which Wang roundly forbids. Mei Li, believing herself rejected by Ta, is recommended by the suddenly alarmed Sammy Fong "Don't Marry Me". Sammy is not taken in by Frankie and Linda, whom he instantly recognises as 'artistes' from his night-club, Linda also being his long-standing girl-friend. To cope with a situation that is fast getting out of control, he invites the Wang family to his club, where Helen Chao, who is also Linda's dresser, pines for Ta (Love, Look Away). Linda 'reveals' herself to the shocked Wang and her 'brother' is shown up as a fake. The Wang party leaves in disgust and the furious Linda upsets a champagne bucket over Sammy's head in revenge.
Helen has taken the dejected Ta back to her room - the night passes as a ballet; in the morning Mei Li calls on an errand and spots Ta's coat with the flower she had pinned on it. She pockets the flower and leaves quickly; Ta also is anxious to get home to pacify his father, leaving Helen disconsolate.
Wang and Madam Liang lament "The Other Generation" after Wang San, his younger son, has appeared dressed for baseball and demanding a sandwich. When Ta returns, Wang and Dr. Li propose to formalise the betrothal of their children but Mei Li, having confessed to Ta that she had loved him at first sight, now believes that he loves Helen, if not Linda, and reveals the tell-tale flower. She and her father decide to leave the house for good.
Sammy has decided to marry wildcat Linda and tells her so when she comes to his penthouse (Sunday). He telephones the Community Court that he will forthwith present his bride there, but when he arrives he finds that Dr. Li is there to enforce the 'picture bride' marriage contract and Sammy appears to have been 'framed', though Linda is once again convinced he has cheated her.
Ta comes to Mei Li, who is staying with her father at Sammy's; they confess their love and Ta promises to find a way out of the dilemma. But it is Mei Li who discovers the clue unexpectedly when watching the Late Late Show on TV, and interrupts her lavish Chinese wedding to Sammy to "tell all", ending happily in Ta's arms, and of course with Wang's consent!
6 men, 7 women, 1 boy, chorus
- WANG CHI YANG - A Chinese paterfamilias,
unable to settle easily in America and very much on his dignity.
- MADAM LIANG - His sister-in-law, motherly and understanding
of both Wang's and the younger generation's problems, and herself
making great efforts to assimilate.
- WANG TA - He has difficulty in finding the right girl
for him and is unsure of his ethnic identity, but finally he
- WANG SAN - His younger brother; very much an American
kid, but still respectful enough to his father not to be overtly
- SAMMY FONG - A high-roller who is not above some fairly
dodgy dealing, but he is genuinely fond of the Wang family
and 'does the right thing' by Mei Li.
- MEI LI - At first bewildered by her new life, she quickly
grasps the situation and, having fallen immediately in love,
survives all apparent setbacks with quiet patience. A very
- DR. LI - Her father; formal and deferential to Wang,
but always the loving father.
- LINDA LOW - She loves Sammy Fong, both for his lavish
lifestyle and the fights they enjoy; we never find out whether
her play for Wang Ta was perhaps only to encourage Sammy.
- HELEN CHAO - The girl who draws the short straw; loyal,
loving and bound to be disappointed.
- FRANKIE WING - A small-timer, ready enough to take part in
the deception of Wang.
- DR. LU FONG - Sammy's uncle
- MADAM FONG - Sammy's mother
2 flutes db. piccolo, oboe db. cor anglais, 2 clarinets db. alto sax, bass clarinet db. tenor sax, 2 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, tuba, percussion, harp, guitar (db. banjo, mandolin), piano, strings
Opening, Act I
- You Are Beautiful - Madam Liang, Wang Ta
- A Hundred Million Miracles - Mei Li, Dr. Li, Madam Liang, Wang Chi-yang,
2a. - Bridge to Scene 2
- I Enjoy Being A Girl - Linda
Encore: I Enjoy Being A Girl - Linda
- End of Scene 2 - Linda
4a. - Bridge to Scene 3
- Back Beating - Mei Li
- I Am Going To Like It Here - Mei Li
6a. - Bridge to Scene 4
- Like A God - Wang Ta
7a. - Bridge to Scene 5
- Chop Suey - Madam Liang and Guests
8a. - Encore: Chop Suey
- Jazz Bit - Linda and San
- Don't Marry Me - Mei Li, Sammy Fong
- Grant Avenue - Linda and Ensemble
11a. - Bridge to Scene 6
- Love, Look Away - Helen
- Fan Tan Fanny - Soloist
- Gliding Through My Memoree - Company with solos
- Opening, Act II
- Introduction to Ta's Dream - Ta
16a. - Ta's Dream (Ballet)
16b. - Coda to Ballet
- Reprise: Love, Look Away - Helen
17a. - Bridge to Scene 2
- The Other Generation - Madam Liang, Wang
- Reprise: You Are Beautiful - Ta
19a. - Bridge to Scene 3
- Sunday - Linda, Sammy Fong, Ensemble
- Reprise: Don't Marry Me - Sammy Fong
- Reprise: The Other Generation - Children
- Finale - Company
- Curtain Calls
- Exit Music
The action takes place in San Francisco's Chinatown. Time: The Present
SCENE 1: THE LIVING ROOM IN THE HOUSE OF MASTER WANG CHI YANG
SCENE 2: A HILL OVERLOOKING SAN FRANCISCO BAY
SCENE 3: THE WANG LIVING ROOM
SCENE 4: WANG CHI YANG'S BEDROOM
SCENE 5: THE GARDEN OF THE WANG HOUSE
SCENE 6: LINDA'S DRESSING ROOM IN THE CELESTIAL BAR
SCENE 7: THE CELESTIAL BAR
SCENE 1: HELEN CHAO'S ROOM
SCENE 2: THE WANG LIVING ROOM
SCENE 3: SAMMY FONG'S PENTHOUSE APARTMENT
SCENE 4: THE THREE FAMILY ASSOCIATION
SCENE 5: SAMMY FONG'S PENTHOUSE APARTMENT
SCENE 6: GRANT AVENUE, SAN FRANCISCO'S CHINATOWN
SCENE 7: THE THREE FAMILY ASSOCIATION