Book by Oscar Hammerstein II & Joseph Fields (a later rewrite was done by David Henry Hwang)
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein
adapted from the book, by C.Y. Lee

INFO:

Opened at the St. James Theatre December 1, 1958 602 performances
The Hwang Version opened at the Virginia Theater October 17, 2002 169 performances
Original Director: Gene Kelly (Hwang version – Robert Longbottom)
Original Choreographer: Carol Haney (Hwang version – Longbottom)
Original Producer: Rodgers & Hammerstein, Joseph Fields (Hwang version – Benjamin Mordecai, Michael A. Jenkins, Waxman Williams Entertainment, Cenbter Theatre Group, many others.)
Original Leads: Mei-Li: Miyoshi Umeki (Hwang version Lea Salonga) Linda Low: Pat Suzuki (Hwang version: Sandra Allen) Sammy Fong: Larry Blyden (replaced by Jack Soo, much better casting) Wang Chi-Yang: Keye Luke (Hwang version Ta: Jose Llana)
Cast Size: Male: 4 Women : 6 Ensemble: 8 Total Cast Size: 18
(Hwang version) Male: 4 Female: 3 Ensemble: 15 Total Cast Size: 22 (can be more)
Orchestra: 23 (Hwang version – 16 or 19, depending on what you double.)
Published Script: Ferrar Strouse Cudahy (Hwang version – Theatre Communications Group)
Production Rights: Rodgers & Hammerstein Library
Original version: http://www.rnh.com/show/36
Hwang version: http://www.rnh.com/show/37
Recordings: The Original Broadway cast album seems very complete.
Other shows by the authors: R&H: Oklahoma, Carousel, Allegro, South Pacific, The King And I, The Sound Of Music
Awards: The original was nominated for 6 Tony Awards, and won 1, for musical direction. (The Hwang revival earned three Tony nominations, no wins.)

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:
Reasonably large companies with a large Asian American (or Asian/English speaking) talent pool.  Resident theater companies, some colleges and universities, perhaps some Dinner Theaters and larger Little Theaters might consider it.

Be Warned:
MUST be cast with actors of Asian descent!

THE STORY: (Outline from Wikipedia. First, the original Hammerstein text.)

ACT ONE: Wang Ta, a young Chinese-American man living in his father’s house in San Francisco’s Chinatown, discusses the problems of finding a wife with his aunt, Madam Liang (“You Are Beautiful”) before hurrying off on a blind date. Nightclub owner Sammy Fong arrives with an offer for Ta’s immigrant father, Master Wang, a very old-fashioned Chinatown elder. Sammy’s picture bride has just arrived from China, illegally, but the shy Mei Li is clearly the wrong girl for Sammy, who already has an assertive girlfriend, a characteristic he likes. Sammy offers to sign the contract over to the Wang family: this would free Sammy from the contract and arrange a suitable wife for Ta. Sammy has taken the liberty of bringing the girl and her father with him; Wang is charmed (“A Hundred Million Miracles”) and invites them to live in his home on the understanding that if the proposed marriage falls through, Fong will still be bound to marry Mei Li.

Ta’s blind date proves to be the thoroughly Americanized Linda Low, who we will learn is Sammy Fong’s girlfriend and a stripper at his club. On the date with Ta (“I Enjoy Being A Girl”), Linda lies to Ta about her career and family. Ta, knowing that Chinese-Americans with college degrees find it hard to get a job befitting their education, plans to go to law school, postponing the likely career struggle by three years. The impetuous Ta asks Linda to marry him. She agrees, but she needs family consent and lies, saying that she has a brother who will approve the marriage. Ta returns home and meets Mei Li, who is immediately attracted to him (“I Am Going to Like It Here”), though Ta is unimpressed. That changes when Ta sees her in a Western dress (“Like a God”).

Linda comes to Madam Liang’s graduation party from citizenship school with Linda’s “brother” (actually the comedian from Sammy’s nightclub) and presents herself as Ta’s intended, with her “brother” giving his consent for the marriage. The extroverted, Americanized woman is not what Wang has in mind for his elder son, and Wang and Ta argue. Sammy Fong arrives and quickly penetrates Linda’s scheme: Linda, frustrated by the five years she has been seeing Sammy, is determined to marry someone, and if Sammy won’t step forward, she will settle for Ta. Sammy quickly strikes back by inviting the Wangs, Mei Li and her father to watch the show at his “Celestial Bar” (“Fan Tan Fannie”). Linda does her striptease, realizing too late who is sitting at the best table. Sammy’s special guests storm out, except for Ta, who is so humiliated that he does not know what to do. He is led away by childhood friend Helen Chao, a seamstress who fits Linda’s costumes for her, and whose love for Ta is unrequited. Linda, goaded beyond endurance when Sammy raises his glass to her, dumps a champagne bucket over his head.

ACT TWO:The drunken Ta spends the night at Helen’s apartment (“Ballet”). In the morning, Mei Li delivers Master Wang’s coat for Helen to mend and is distressed to see Ta’s dinner jacket there. Mei Li jumps to conclusions and leaves horrified. Ta leaves the lonely Helen, totally oblivious to her attempts to interest him. Wang wants the bar and its “evil spirits” shut down; his sister-in-law informs him that free enterprise cannot be shut down, and the two wonder at the foibles of the younger generation (“The Other Generation”). Ta arrives home to admit that his father was right, Mei Li is the girl for him. But now, Mei Li wants nothing to do with him, and the Lis leave the Wang home. Sammy Fong and Linda decide to get married (“Sunday”), but when he goes to the Three Family Association (a benevolent association) to announce Linda as his bride, he finds Mei Li and her father there, and the elders insist that he honor his betrothal to the immigrant girl.

Ta brings Mei Li a wedding gift of a pair of his mother’s earrings that she wore on her wedding day and tries unsuccessfully to hide the fact that he is now deeply in love with her. The wedding procession moves down San Francisco’s Grant Avenue with the bride, heavily veiled, carried on a sedan chair (“Wedding Parade”). Sammy drinks from the traditional wedding goblet, then offers the goblet to his new bride. Unveiled, Mei Li confesses to Sammy’s mother that she cannot marry Sammy as she is an illegal alien – a tactic she learned by watching American television. The contract is void, and that gives both Sammy and Ta the opportunity to marry their true loves, Linda and Mei Li.

THE SONGS: (The original version)
“You Are Beautiful” , “A Hundred Million Miracles”, “I Enjoy Being A Girl”, “I Am Going to Like It Here”, “Like a God”, “Chop Suey”, “Don’t Marry Me”, “Grant Avenue”, “Love, Look Away”, “Fan Tan Fannie”, “Gliding Through My Memories”, “Finale: Grant Avenue”, “Ballet Love” , “Look Away (Reprise)”, “The Other Generation”, “Sunday”, “The Other Generation (Reprise), “Wedding Parade”, “Finale”

(The Hwang 2002 ) version

PROLOGUE: In 1960, Wu Mei-li, a performer in Cinese Opera, flees China with a flower drum after her father dies in prison for defying the Communists (“A Hundred Million Miracles”).

ACT ONE: On arrival in the United States, Mei-li goes to the Golden Pearl Theatre in San Francisco’s Chinatown, where little-attended Chinese opera is presented by her father’s old friend Wang Chi-yang and Wang’s foster brother Chin. One night a week, Wang’s son Ta turns the theater into a nightclub, starring the very assimilated Linda Low, a Chinese-American stripper from Seattle. Linda’s constant companion is a gay costume designer, Harvard (so named by his success-obsessed Chinese parents). The nightclub is profitable; the Chinese opera is not. Mei-li joins the opera company (“I Am Going to Like It Here”) and is soon attracted to the indifferent Ta, who favors Linda. Mei-li is fascinated by Linda, who urges her to adopt the American lifestyle (“I Enjoy Being a Girl”). Linda is soon signed by talent agent Rita Liang, who pushes Wang to turn the theater into a club full-time (“Grant Avenue”), and he reluctantly opens Club Chop Suey.

Ta slowly is becoming attracted to Mei-li, who now serves as a waitress, but he has competition from fortune cookie factory worker Chao, whom Mei-li met on the slow journey from China, and who is rapidly becoming discontented with America. Wang is also unhappy, despite the club’s success, and it is no consolation the crowd is having a good time – after all, in the old country, no crowd ever came to his theater expecting to enjoy themselves. Outraged at Harvard’s poor acting skills, Wang takes the stage in his place, his stage instincts take over (“Gliding Through My Memories”), and he is soon an enthusiastic supporter of the change, taking the stage name Sammy Fong. Linda advises Mei-li to put on one of her old stripper dresses to attract Ta, but the stratagem backfires, since Ta is attracted to Mei-li because of her wholesomeness. Ta and Mei-li quarrel; she takes her flower drum and leaves Club Chop Suey.

ACT TWO: Several months pass, and Club Chop Suey has become even flashier (“Chop Suey”). Ta can not forget Mei-li, and his uncle Chin (a janitor under the new regime) advises Ta to pursue her (“My Best Love”). He finds her in a fortune cookie factory working alongside Chao. Mei-li tells Ta that she and Chao have decided to return to China together, or at least to Hong Kong, then administered by the British. Meanwhile, Wang now finds himself attracted to Madam Liang, and the two have dinner together, though they decide not to marry (“Don’t Marry Me”). They marry anyway.

Linda announces that she is leaving for Los Angeles, as Wang’s “Sammy Fong” act has effectively taken over the show, and she has received a better offer. Ta intercepts Mei-li at the docks and persuades her to remain in America; Ta leaves Club Chop Suey and the two become street performers as Chao departs for Hong Kong. Harvard announces his intention to return home and attempt a reconciliation with his disappointed parents. Despite his irritation at Ta, Wang allows him to marry Mei-li at the club (which now features Ta’s Chinese opera one day a week), as the company celebrates how Chinese and American cultures have converged to create this happy moment (Finale: “A Hundred Million Miracles”).

THE SONGS:

“A Hundred, Million Miracles”, “I Am Going To Like It Here”, “Jazz Bit”, “I Enjoy Being A Girl”, “You Are Beautiful”, “Grant Avenue”, “Sunday”, “I Enjoy Being A Girl” (reprise), “Fan Tan Tannie”, “Gliding Through My Memories”, “A Hundred Million Miracles” reprise, “Chop Suey”, “My Best Love”, “I Am Going To Like It Here” (reprise), “Don’t Marry Me”, “Love, Look Away”, “Like A God”, “A Hundred Million Miracles” finale

Hits include “I Enjoy Being A Girl”, “Love, Look Away”

MY OPINIONS:

You may, as always, elect to ignore or skip my opinions and rating. If your production turns into chop suey, well, your problem.

The original production of Flower Drum Song, adapted from C.Y. Lee’s best selling novel, was produced in the late 50s. It was moderately successful at that time, and certainly more so than the Hwang version, in terms of its Broadway run. The two versions differ in many ways. The Hwang version is certainly the more “contemporary” of the two, the more politically correct and, interestingly, politically the more interesting. Frankly, upon looking them both over carefully, the Hwang version is generally superior, its second act by far the strongest of the pair of versions. The first script is okay, but it has dated. The new script, strangely enough, must be played as a period piece. Though it has a more politically correct and modern drift and a sounder structure, it is locked into the period the original covered. The cast is smaller, and the orchestra (not sure why, with that one), but the show is not much smaller than the original in terms of production values.

However, though the Hwang version has some problems, and the character of Ta does things that often make little sense, overall it’s significantly funnier, and certainly more moving than the earlier Hammerstein script. In short, it is a markedly improved entertainment. The fact that the Hwang version turns the story into a kind of backstage tale, though a venerated tradition in Musical Theater (42nd Street, Babes In Arms, Pal Joey, Gypsy, Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, A Chorus Line, Follies, etc), does not help it a lot. Despite the list of successful examples of this sort of story-telling (and the list of failures of this sort is much longer), I’ve never been convinced that audiences care about the unseen foibles of show folk. Such stories, even the fine ones listed above, always seem a bit narcissistic to me, and all-too-often a touch campy. The Hwang version fits into this category. It is a bit narcissistic, and a bit campy, to be sure. But it exists for a good reason, and has more to say to today’s audience than the original. I think what is won by the Hwang version as compared to what was set aside is worthwhile, and makes the newer version the one to produce.

That said, Flower Drum Song in any version is far removed from being a masterpiece. Though it has a few memorable (if dated) songs by the masters, R&H, it is a part and parcel of the declining years of R&H’s collaboration, which includes all their work after their last truly fine work, The King & I. (Yes, sports fans, that includes The Sound Of Music.) The “jazzy” pieces cloy, as Hammerstein was never very good at that sort of thing. The “Asian” pieces are completely Rodger’s music, he was never able to stretch too far outside his comfort zone (as Sondheim did so successfully in Pacific Overtures, as an example). Of course, what is contained within Rodger’s comfort zone is very often greatness, great and memorable music. Not this time, however, except for perhaps “Love, Look Away”, “You Are Beautiful”, and “A Hundred Million Miracles”. (I sort of find “I Enjoy Being A Girl” embarrassing, and always have, I’m afraid. The music is catchy enough, but that lyric. Uh-uh.) Unless a producer is looking specifically for a show with a largely Asian cast, or for a largely Asian audience (in both cases, definitely do the Hwang version), I don’t see a reason to do this particular show over one of R&H’s masterpieces (South Pacific, Allegro and The King & I would be my choices. Carousel, on a dare, perhaps.)

That said, I was moved by the Hwang version’s second act. He pays off well what he sets up in Act I. I think two characters behave almost inexplicably, Ta and his father, but it still created an emotional response in me that I appreciated. The Hwang version is a bit kitschy, and strangely old school in its construction, almost like a Rodgers & Hart piece, excluding the dynamic reference to the Chinese Communist revolution at the start of the play, and the lovely ending to Act II. I like that father and son switch places and find their own ways to “belong”. I loved when the characters each announce their place of birth at the end of the script. There is something here waiting to be presented with emotion and clarity (and perhaps some editing), a play containing two worlds in conflict attempting to reconcile. I would love to be proven wrong in my “rating” this as slightly above average, and I think it is possible that your excellent production could do that. Please proceed.

MY RATING: (A slightly above average show, but one worthy of consideration.)

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:

(We’ll focus on the Hwang version here on out, as it’s likely that’s what most companies will be doing.) The music is rather simple, almost simplistic, throughout most of the show. It is generally Rodgers & Hammerstein’s most simple score. The score is light weight for a Musical, and a relatively new Musical Director who plays decently should be able to handle the assignment.

Mei-Li – Soprano, a sweet, pure, lyrical voice, not particularly “theatrical”, but warm, gentle and inviting. (Lea Salonga has a very good belt, but it never loses its purity.)

Wang – Baritone, a fine theater voice but not “romantic” per say, more a character-driven, mature voice able to drive the interpretation as an actor.

Ta – Tenor, youthful, romantic, a fine but warm belt.

Linda Low – Theatrical belt voice, mezzo/alto range, full and strong and sexy.

Chin – Baritone, character-driven and aged.

Harvard – Tenor, character-driven.

Liang – A mature belt voice, Linda Low a few decades up the road vocally.

Chao – Baritone.

Ensemble – All should sing well, with a belt, harmonize decently.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:

The Hwang version contains a fair amount of dance, of essentially three sorts. 1) Chinese Opera, heavily ritualized and stylized, specific and historic. 2) “On stage” jazzy stuff, late 50′s Rodgers version of jazz, a little sweet, a little sexy, with “strippers.” 3) “Backstage” numbers where relationships develop. These should feel guileless, unstaged and natural. And they should generally be staged by the Director rather than by a Choreographer.

A Choreographer will probably be involved in staging all the Chinese Opera pieces, which are unmentioned in the song list. They are seen as rehearsals. The Choreographer must be familiar or become familiar with Chinese Opera, to stage these effectively. They should feel (and be) culturally astute and accurate. Don’t “fake it” if you can help it, do some research! I looked, and youtube has many samples, and even documentaries.

The “on-stage” numbers that a Choreographer is likely to be involved in include “Jazz Bit”, “Grant Avenue”, and “Fan Tan Tannie”. These need to flash and spark and reek of pandering, I think, both sexual pandering and the pandering being done by an Asian trained in Chinese Opera, to attract Americans to his club. The “striptease” part should not be taken to literally, folks! This is a family show, generally. That does not mean the numbers can’t be a bit sexy. They need to have lots of theatrical energy, and are your opportunity to do some “Broadway” dance. In each case, keep Linda front and center, she’s your “dance star,” and she should look sexy and good enough to attract attention.

The “backstage” numbers you may be involved in staging include “A Hundred Million Miracles”, “I Enjoy Being A Girl”, “I Enjoy Being A Girl” (reprise), “Sunday”, “Chop Suey”, “Don’t Marry Me”, “Like A God”, and “A Hundred Million Miracles” finale. As mentioned, these should have an unstaged quality, a peeking through the keyhole mentality.

The opening number, “A Hundred Million Miracles” needs to be very carefully and clearly staged. It is intended to work as a history lesson, as well as a dramatically satisfying personal opening to Mei-Li’s story. She must be kept at the center of the action, it’s her life that is changing. The ensemble portraying the Red Chinese must be imposing, frightening. Perhaps huge Chinese puppetry could be employed, or visual elements of Chinese Opera, to create a wall of Communists engulfing her father. The threat must be real and frightening for the show to get off to a strong start. And not “dancy”. It should feel like real life distilled into powerful theater.

Okay, “I Enjoy Being A Girl” is the show’s best known song. It must entertain and not embarrass. In this version, Linda has a use for being a girl. In America, she is free to experience her femininity, to use it, to revel in it. As she expresses the sentiment to Mei-Li, who does not yet grasp the difference in lifestyles very well, it is a joyous expression of freedom, which should (if done well) re-purpose this song and move it out of the male chauvinistic arena it long took center stage in. demonstrate the contrast between Mei-Li and her upbringing, and Linda’s distinctly American Girl view, in movement, the song can again be a highlight of this show.

“Chop Suey” opens Act II, and needs to be somewhat high energy and fun. It is another number that draws a contrast between the American way of life and the traditional Chinese. I would think that, as the writers must have done, a Choreographer will need to develop a vocabulary (in movement and dance) of images displaying this difference, as you’ll be called on in numerous numbers to present exactly that. But this must be a fun number, perhaps startling in imagery in the way it displays the differences in cultures.

“Don’t Marry Me” has been moved from the characters (the “sexy” young Asians) in the original, to the geriatric characters in the Hwang draft. Lyrically and musically, I don’t think this works overwhelmingly well, and is for me the weakest alteration in the Hwang version. Keep the staging true to the character’s ages, though they are far from infirm. And theirs is a gradually developing attraction which we should sense, but see in the most subtle ways only.

“Like A God” is a solo, high energy, exultant. A man discovers he is at least part “God” within, when he loves. It is an interestingly large idea from Mr. Hammerstein, and the music mates it with energy and commitment. We see a man reaching for and almost touching the divine, the stars. He feels as if he can see the whole world before him, that his reach is infinite. This does not require choreography, but it needs a sense of forward motion.

Generally, observe the three divisions of choreography in the show and know which number is which. A job for a reasonably experienced choreographer, though the sort of expertise requires is unique when factoring in the Chinese Opera sequences.

CASTING CONCERNS:

All the leads listed before are of Asian decent, Chinese. Cast as closely to that as you can.

Mei-Li – Late teens-early 20s. Young, determined, innocent. She is lovely, perhaps even attractive. Buried in her traditional upbringing, she struggles with American values and eventually finds hem seriously wanting. She has a strongly developed and defined sense of right and wrong, and is firm in her beliefs. Devoted to the memory of her father, to love, and to kindness. Cast for voice, acting, type, some movement, in that order.

Wang – late 40s-early 60s. A once great dancer and actor in the Chinese Opera, a man wedded to tradition and the old ways he was brought up with. But there is something he finally treasures more than tradition, and that is a life today. He loves the attentions of an audience inveterately. He has long raised his son alone, and has grown rusty in love, and in relationships of all sorts, and his adherence to tradition protects him from concourse he isn’t sure he wants (from anyone). But when he finally loosens up, he’s funny, charming, and still very much alive. I would argue he’s the star of this show. Cast for type, acting, voice, dance. Must be strong at everything.

Ta – 20s-early 30s, Wang’s son. A man caught between two worlds, one foot in traditional China and its art and culture, the other in the modern, jazzy world of modern America. He is not entirely at home in either world, as he does not entirely like what he himself is. Handsome, bright, a gifted dancer in traditional Chinese Opera (playing the woman or the man), he must be desirable and interesting. But there is that which is weak in him, and which drives away some others (such as Linda). Cast for acting, type, voice, dance. Must be strong at everything.

Linda Low – Mid 20s-early 30s. Sexy, great figure, a “hot” dancer in contemporary (for the story) styles, a stripper of sorts. Smart, aggressive, determined to have everything, but with limited skills and talents. A man magnet filled with brightness, spark, vitality. Cast for voice, dance, type, acting, but must be strong at everything.

Chin – In his 60s, an old family friend. A simple man who finds ways to survive. Hard-working, but not overly imaginative, still he can be simply charming and amusing. Cast for type, voice, acting.

Harvard – In his 20s, probably gay. Clever, funny, with dreams of his own to appear on stage. Comic relief. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

Liang – In her 40s-50s, a talent agent. Sharp-tongued, aggressive, sure of herself. Once an almost star, attractive, with show-biz in her veins. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

Chao – Early 20s, a new immigrant to America. Somewhat humorless, desperate, looking for some way to make his life work. Willing to use the lovely Mei-Li, perhaps in love with her in a rigid way. Cast for acting, type, voice.

Ensemble – Dancers (strippers), people visiting the club, factory workers, the ensemble will be very visible and active. All must sing, dance well, do some acting. Good ensemble roles.

SETS:

The play takes place mostly in the Golden Pearl theatre, a dilapidated old Chinese Opera House. The Prologue takes place in isolated spotlights, as China is overrun by Communists. Playing this with a barely lit, almost invisible Chinese Opera background, with perhaps dragons in the motif, will provide it a sense of time and flavor that would be useful. Create an image for the boat, a Chinese Opera American boat, that perhaps is carried on, on a scarf of mass proportion, with a second blue scarf as “ocean waves”, manipulated by cast members. I would show Wang and Ta dancing between immigrants even as they sail to America, arrive, and disperse from the stage, leaving only the two men still dancing as the lights rise. This will be haunting and provide a seamless transition into Act I, Scene I. All of this should be played in the front ½ of the stage, the Chinese Opera backdrop running across the stage mid-way.

Scene II also takes place on stage at the theatre, a rehearsal for the “jazz bit”, etc. Just bring on the girls just as the last scene ends, on the applause.

The next scene, Scene 3, takes place in Linda’s dressing room. Raise the Chinese Opera drape mid-stage to reveal the dressing room. Keep this set simple, use the actual stage walls, a stand-alone door as an “entrance”, perhaps, a few bulbs, a make-up mirror and seat and table, a few chairs, a screen to change behind.

Drop a new mid-stage drape for scene 4, to represent the nightclub. Perhaps lower a neon sign to indicate the club. Bring in a few nightclub tables and place them at the edges left and right, with chairs and “customers”, the number of which will grow through the show.

Raise the drape again for Scene 5, backstage, having removed the stand-alone door and other aspects of the dressing room, replacing them with backstage stuff like a work light, and some flats up against a wall with traditional Chinese designs on them.

Lower the Club Chop Suey mid-stage drop for Scene 6, and perhaps a few interesting lamps can be lowered as well, to provide a new look. Raise it and reveal Linda’s dressing room again for Scene 7. Lower a new club drop for Scene 8, perhaps toward downstage and only using half the stage, like a partial backdrop. Use the rest of the stage for “off stage”. Raise the partial drape for scene 9, which takes place backstage again.

Act II, the ½ Chop Suey club drop is in place, more tables, more hanging lamps, perhaps a fancy dragon decoration up there above the stage looking down. Things are fancier. Again, part of the stage is left open as “back stage”, with a standing light, flats, etc. Scene 2, raise the club, drop the original Chinese Opera drop, and play the scene in isolated lighting.

Scene 3, raise the drop to reveal (directly behind it) a fortune cookie factory. This could be represented by several tables end to end where people work doing various assembly-line type jobs. The backdrop could be factory metal and brick, at the back of the stage hiding the backstage look of the actual stage wall and most of the back half of the stage. Raise (and remove the tables) to reveal…

Isolate in lighting, perhaps with a single decorative lamp shaped like a dragon above, the “Golden Dragon Restaurant.” an appropriate table and chairs under that lamp, a table for two. One side of the stage, set up behind the last backdrop as the scene played.

Scene 5, Backstage again, as described earlier. Just bring the lights up. For scene 6, place the Chinese Opera boat again, perhaps on a mostly bare stage, and bring on a barrel or something to represent a dock.

Scene 7, backstage. Scene 8, drop the Chinese Opera set into place, along with fancy decor for a wedding, perhaps carried on by ensemble.

All in all, the following drops: Chinese Opera, a Chinese Opera boat, the club, the back wall of the factory (which could be done with just partial lighting, no backdrop). You’ll need a free-standing door and the articles for Linda’s dressing room, a few dining tables for the club and the Golden Dragon, with chairs. You’ll need wings and flies. Could be a fun design for an experienced Designer. The cultural clash represented in the show should be apparent in the set design!

COSTUMES:

A big job! Chinese Opera costuming! Showgirls in their scanties, three bucks a night was the pay…oops, wrong show but right costuming. (Sorry, Mr. Sondheim…) Chinese wear vs. western wear depending on the character. A mix for some, like Lady Liang. Linda must look great all the time. Mei-Li must be lovely, attractive, not dressed in an Asian bag. Red Chinese Communist uniforms and peasant wear.

A real job for an experienced costumer.

PROPS:

Numerous for the Opera and club, for the numbers and various performances. The Little Red Book (to be torn in half each night). Guns and such for the Communists. Mei-Li’s all-important drum. Could be quite a job.

LIGHTING:

Should be rich, and differentiated. The “real life” scenes should feel close to real, not too fancy or theatrical. “On-stage” numbers should be entirely theatrical, with follow spots on Linda, or whoever is central to the action. “Backstage” should feel “real”, using a standing lamp and such, but many of the numbers take place in the backstage story, including a restaurant scene. This level of action probably needs to be somewhat theatrical, but less so than the “on stage” material, which should use saturated colors reminiscent of Chinese Opera. A job for an excellent Lighting Designer.

MAKE-UP:

“On-stage” make-up should be theatrical, even stylized. The rest of the time, make-up should be unobtrusive. Could get creative showing the difference between Chinese Opera and strippers in a “modern” U.S.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director, Choreographer, Set Designer, Costume Designer, Wang, Mei-Li, Linda.

MY THOUGHTS:
This show could be a “sleeper”, a show waiting rediscovered, brought to life perhaps in ways it never has been. A theater looking to do Rodgers and Hammerstein, but a lesser-known piece, should first consider Allegro, a far more interesting show. But this show might work well for a company with a deep talent pool of Asian Americans.  As designed above, the sets can be worked inexpensively.  Orchestration could be significantly reduced, perhaps to as little as 8-10.   But costuming and the cast size are sure to be a deterrent to many companies.