VACT CELEBRATES ANNIVERSARY OF RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN MUSICAL WITH AN ALL-ASIAN CAST

Is “Flower Drum Song” an Asian-American version of “Sound of Music” by Rodgers & Hammerstein?

Just as the Von Trapp family hiked over the mountains for a chance of freedom from Nazi tyranny, the characters of Flower Drum Song find happiness in the pursuit of the “American Dream” both as immigrants coming to a new country, and as Americans finding their place.  The Flower Drum Wong musical (1958) was based on the book by C.Y. Lee (1957), and a movie version directed by Gene Kelly came out in 1961.

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein had previously written musicals with Asian themes such as South Pacific (1949) and The King & I (1951).  Watching the movie versions as I grew up, I was always interested because they had Asian characters and actors.  The original musical and movie of Flower Drum Song became considered full of racist stereotypes during the American Civil Rights movement, but like the 1910 song “Chinatown My Chinatown” penned by Jerome & Schartz, it has an affectionate place in the hearts of many North American Asians.

About  year ago, I watched the movie version on dvd, and was amazed by the commentary from playwright David Henry Hwang, who re-wrote Flower Drum Song for a post-colonial America and stated, “I tried to write the book that Oscar Hammerstein would have written if he were Asian-American.” 

I really enjoyed watching the original movie.  There are great highlights such as Nancy Kwan singing “I Enjoy Being a Girl”, “A Hundred Million Miracles” performed by Miyoshi Umeki.  Most fantastic is the jazz dance sequence of the song “Chop Suey” is addresses the melting pot/cultural fusion of Asian America.  My friend Dan Seto always says that the song “Grant Avenue” is famous, and was very happy on his first visit to San Francisco to actually stand on Grant Avenue in Chinatown.  It would be as if Rodgers & Hammerstein had set the story in Vancouver Chinatown and wrote a song about “Pender Street.”

Check out this press release from Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre and buy your tickets!


VACT
CELEBRATES ANNIVERSARY OF RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN MUSICAL

WITH
AN ALL-ASIAN CAST

Rodgers
& Hammerstein’s FLOWER DRUM SONG *
May 29
to

June
14, 2009

 

 

 

VANCOUVER,
BC (April 2, 2009) – Continuing to celebrate 10 successful years as the city’s
premiere Asian Canadian theatre company, Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (VACT)
is excited to announce that it will be staging Rodgers & Hammerstein’s FLOWER DRUM
SONG
from May 29 to June 14 at
The Waterfront Theatre on Granville
Island.

 

This
is the very first time that this Tony award-winning Broadway musical will be
presented in
Vancouver
as a full production, during this, the 50th anniversary of the play.
Another milestone for
Vancouver
theatre will be the all-Asian-Canadian
cast
, along with an Asian Canadian
production team
that includes director Rick Tae, choreographer Raphael Wong, set designer Janice Chiu, costumer designers Joyce Chung, Jeannine Sheares-Moon and producer Joyce Lam. Rounding out the team will
include musical director Christopher
King
and lighting designer Darren
Hales
.

 

Other
notable highlights include actor and former
Vancouver
city councillor BC Lee and local
Asian comedian Tom Chin, in a cast
of eighteen that stars Issac Kwok as
young and impressionable Wang Ta, Rosie
Simon
as shy pre-arranged bride Mei Li, Jimmy Yi as hipster nightclub owner
Sammy Fong and Lannette New as
ready-for-the-altar showgirl Linda Low.

 

And
adding to the experience, VACT will include the use of sur-titles – Chinese text that’s
displayed above the stage so that non-English speaking Chinese members of the
audience will be able to follow along with the lyrics and the dialogue. This is
the second time that VACT has decided to use this visual aid to welcome as many
members of the local Asian community as possible – the first time being VACT’s
successful run last summer of the Asian version of Neil Simon’s THE ODD
COUPLE.

 

Rodgers
& Hammerstein’s FLOWER DRUM SONG, set in
San
Francisco
’s
Chinatown
of the late 50’s, takes a “colourful” approach to the age-old conflict that
affects even the traditional immigrant family – the Generation Gap. Sammy’s
folks have arranged a bride for him from
China,
hoping to sever his relationship with showgirl Linda. Mei Li arrives shy and
naive – totally wrong for the modernized Sammy. But, she just may be the ticket
for Sammy’s buddy Ta, whose dad is trying to prevent his kids from discovering
rock ‘n roll, baseball, sports cars – a losing battle. However, Ta is smitten
with the sexy Linda – because she “enjoys
being a girl
.” Suddenly Sammy has to figure out how to get Ta and Mei
together so he can be with Linda. Of course, singing and dancing
ensues.

 

FLOWER
DRUM SONG, first performed on Broadway in 1958, is seeing a revival lately. It
had fallen out of favour over the years as diversity awareness redefined how
minorities should be portrayed in the media. However, VACT’s production will
keep all of the original language of the play and attitudes of the day intact.
“Doing this, our audience will be able to
see the distinction in how far we’ve come and also be able to reminisce about
the past with a satirical sense of humour, “
says director Rick Tae. “It’s just amazing how far we’ve come,”
adds producer and VACT founder
Joyce Lam.  “We have 18 terrific actors and singers in
this cast. I remember clearly 10 years ago how we struggled to find 3
experienced Asian actors in all of
Vancouver
for our first play.”

 

For
more information, including cast and crew bios, please visit http://www.vact.ca.

 

Event
Details

Rodgers &
Hammerstein’s FLOWER DRUM SONG

@
The Waterfront Theatre

1412
Cartwright Street
,
Granville
Island,
Vancouver

May
28: Preview

May
29, 30, 31, June 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

 

Tickets
Details

Purchase in
Advance:

By
phone (604) 684-2787 with a $2.50 service charge

By
online www.vact.ca or
wwww.ticketstonight.ca

Group Rates,
please call (778) 885-1973

 

*Preview
performance Thursday May 28 at
8pm – $20

(only available
online at www.vact.ca or cash-only at
door)

*All
Wednesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday evening performances at

8pm

$29 in
advance/$35 cash-only at door

*Saturday/Sunday
matinees at
2pm (except
Wednesday June 3 matinee at
1pm) –

$24 in
advance/$30 cash-only at door

 

*Limited
Rush Tickets: $17.50 cash-only at the door (max 2 per person)

*Students
and Seniors (65+): $20 cash-only at door

(not
available Friday or Saturday evening performances)

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