Flower Drum Songs: The Story of Two Musicals

Overview

The return to New York in 2002 of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song-with a totally new book by playwright David Henry Hwang-was considered the most revolutionary chapter in the history of Broadway revivals. Why? The musical, a clear hit when it was originally produced in 1958, had later acquired a debatable reputation for quaint, racially offensive Asian stereotypes. Yet Hwang's controversial rewrite-driven at least in part by concerns about such offenses-was a ...
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About the Book The return to New York in 2002 of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song--with a totally new book by playwright David Henry Hwang--was considered the most ... revolutionary chapter in the history of Broadway revivals. Why? The musical, a clear hit when it was originally produced in 1958, had later acquired a debatable reputation for quaint, racially offensive Asian stereotypes. Yet Hwang’s controversial rewrite--driven at least in part by concerns about such offenses--was a box-office failure. Drawing upon fresh interviews with members of both the original and the revival casts, whose first-hand accounts enliven the narrative with surprising candor, David H. Lewis charts in detail the difficult production history of Flower Drum Song. He explores the forces that turned against the original show; the arguably inferior movie version (upon which its most outspoken critics would base their discontent and public resistance); rising criticism from within the Asian American community fueled by ethnic-studies programs that swept across college campuses in the 1970s; and, ultimately, the indifference of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, itself caught up in its own quest to update the works of two musical theatre giants and keep their names blazing on theatre marquees. This well-illustrated story of the two Flower Drum Songs is replete with fascinating anecdotes by turns colorful, humorous and sad. The shared memories of the cast offer an eye-opening look at the often chaotic journey of a musical along the precarious path to opening night. The author addresses the value of preserving the rich and revered legacy of Broadway’s greatest team. Read more Show Less

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Overview

The return to New York in 2002 of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song-with a totally new book by playwright David Henry Hwang-was considered the most revolutionary chapter in the history of Broadway revivals. Why? The musical, a clear hit when it was originally produced in 1958, had later acquired a debatable reputation for quaint, racially offensive Asian stereotypes. Yet Hwang's controversial rewrite-driven at least in part by concerns about such offenses-was a box-office failure.

Drawing upon fresh interviews with members of both the original and the revival casts, whose first-hand accounts enliven the narrative with surprising candor, David H. Lewis charts in detail the difficult production history of Flower Drum Song. He explores the forces that turned against the original show; the arguably inferior movie version (upon which its most outspoken critics would base their discontent and public resistance); rising criticism from within the Asian American community fueled by ethnic-studies programs that swept across college campuses in the 1970s; and, ultimately, the indifference of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, itself caught up in its own quest to update the works of two musical theatre giants and keep their names blazing on theatre marquees.

This well-illustrated story of the two Flower Drum Songs is replete with fascinating anecdotes by turns colorful, humorous and sad. The shared memories of the cast offer an eye-opening look at the often chaotic journey of a musical along the precarious path to opening night. The author addresses the value of preserving the rich and revered legacy of Broadway's greatest team. What price a bid for revival fame?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786422463
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/10/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 234
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

David H. Lewis has written articles for Variety, The Christian Science Monitor, and Skate, among others, and is the author of Broadway Musicals: A Hundred Year History (2002). He lives in California.

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Table of Contents

1 Seeking a hit back 5
2 Above Grant Avenue 18
3 Hold the snails, please 30
4 Slanting all eyebrows 37
5 Starring the director 49
6 Clocking the laughs 64
7 Opening night blossoms 76
8 On the road to fractious maturity 90
9 Hollywood suey 101
10 Obstacle of changing weather : actors and activists 113
11 Darkening the image 125
12 Songs for sale 140
13 Way out of town 152
14 The L.A. embrace 162
15 Back to Broadway 174
16 Lost on a bigger midway 187
17 Hwang versus Hammerstein 199
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