Nine years after Carousel opened on Broadway and seven years after The King and I, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II saw their Flower Drum Song premiere on Broadway at the St. James Theatre December 1, 1958. A musical about life in San Francisco's Chinatown, the cast included Pat Suzuki, Juanita Hall, Ed Kenney, and Jaco Soo.
“Flower Drum Song was what Oscar Hammerstein II referred to as a ‘lucky hit,’" says Ted Chapin, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Chief Creative Officer. "It was contemporary, sassy, and in its 1958 way, bold. Those associated with the original production have become a family and have often gathered in reunions. When the revival was done in 2002, new members of the family were welcomed in. It’s nice to feel such warmth still emanating from the show. I wish it a very happy anniversary.”
Among those in the ensemble of the 1958 premiere was Baayork Lee. “It was such honor to be asked by Richard Rodgers to be in the original company of Flower Drum Song. He had remembered me from the original company of The King and I and kids grow up, so it was perfect for me to go into FDS," she says. "I am experiencing the reunion this week and can't believe members of the original company bonded as if we had never been apart. We all experienced working with all the greats—Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, Gene Kelly, and Carol Haney. Pinch me, as the memories flow as we all tell stories from the past.”
Also in celebration, the Red Bucket Follies opening number—conceived by Lainie Sakakura and Telly Leung and directed and choreographed by Alex Sanchez—honors the legacy of Asian-Americans on Broadway by paying tribute to Flower Drum Song at the December 3 and December 4 performances. Featuring members of the original 1958 cast as well as Asian performers currently on Broadway, the piece celebrates Broadway’s diversity and the diversity within the Asian-American experience.
Relive the original production 60 years later with the photo gallery below!