'Flower Drum Song' Rich Ryan


Flower Drum Song

Every Wed., Thu., Fri., and Sat. from Jan. 20-Feb. 19
7:30 p.m.
Every Sun. from Jan. 20-Feb. 19
2 p.m.

Once in danger of being discarded as a relic of culturally distorted stereotypes, Flower Drum Song has gone through a fascinating rehabilitation over the last 15 years. As originally produced on Broadway in 1958, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical followed Mei-Li, a Chinese refugee brought to San Francisco as a mail-order bride for a Chinatown club owner. Though the work contained a number of musical gems (such as “I Enjoy Being a Girl,” “I Am Going to Like It Here,” and “Don’t Marry Me”), both the storyline and characters reflected a regrettably superficial understanding of Chinese culture. In reviving the work, however, Tony Award-winning Asian American playwright David Henry Hwang sought to retain both the musical power and central themes involving cultural identity and assimilation, but viewed through a lens more indicative of the actual immigrant experience. Guided by Hwang’s reworked script, this new staging by Mu Performing Arts is sure to recall recent debates over immigration and citizenship, as the characters are torn between honoring traditional customs and adapting to the evolving world. Flower Drum Song is further bolstered by the always insightful direction of Randy Reyes and an ensemble cast of 17 Asian American performers. The show is in previews January 20-26.