This Friday, Park Square Theater and Mu Performing Arts premiered their production of Flower Drum Song. This show by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II first appeared on stages in 1958, David Henry Hwang has rewritten the book for this production (first seen in the 2002 Broadway Revival staring Lea Salonga). Although the story is very much changed from its original, the show is still about the immigrant experience. This fact was hard to ignore on the night that Trump signed an executive order banning citizens of certain Middle Eastern countries from entering the United States.
The story centers on Mei-Li (Stephanie Bertumen), who arrives in San Francisco from China after her father is arrested and killed by the communists. Her father's best friend Wang (Sherwin Resurreccion) is trying to maintain the traditions of Chinese Opera at his theater in San Francisco, and his son Ta (Wesley Mouri) desires to make the theater more of a nightclub, starring his crush Linda Lowe (Meghan Kreidler). It is a show about immigrants arriving in the US and the challenges they face, it is also about the children of those immigrants who struggle in balancing an American and a Chinese identity.
And like any Rodgers and Hammerstein show it is filled with beautiful songs. The only song I was familiar with going in was "I Enjoy Being a Girl" but their are so many other beautiful and catchy songs I now find myself listening to including "Like a God" and "Grant Avenue". The songs were performed beautifully by the cast. Stephanie Bertumen and Wesley Mouri's voices were pure and rich singing the more innocent songs while Sherwin Resurreccion and Katie Bradley as Madame Liang performed the more upbeat and comedic songs with much aplomb.
When talking about a musical it is very easy, but would be a crime, to overlook the band. In this case it is easy to see their hard work, as they can be seen on stage. This band of only five musicans, lead by Music Director Andrew Fleser, created all the sounds necessary, often times switching back and forth between multiple instruments. I typically find that smaller bands lead to a more thinned out and sparse sound that in the end can be detracting to the show, but this was not at all the case with the band of Flower Drum Song.
It was very easy to see the fruits of Park Square Theater and Mu Performing Arts's labor in their collaboration with each other. This is my favorite show that I have seen at Park Square. Not only because of the well orchestrated and performed songs, but because it was such a solid show, all components, directed by Randy Reyes working together beautiful. The choreography by Penelope French made all the songs not only a pleasure to listen to but also a pleasure to watch. The set designed by Mina Kinukawa was an enormous presence on stage, but was also seemingly easy to move around for optimal use of the space.
If you want a show the reflects on our current times, but will also leave you with a smile on your face Flower Drum Song is for you.
Flower Drum Song is playing on Park Square Theater's Proscenium Stage until February 19th.
*Photos by Rich Ryan
Thank you to Park Square Theater for inviting me to this production.