A hundred million miracles are happening every day!Flower Drum Song
is a 1957 novel by C.Y. Lee that was adapted
into a musical
by Rodgers and Hammerstein
in 1958. The Movie
adaptation of the musical came out in 1961.
The novel is about Wang Chi-yang, an aging Chinese immigrant to San Francisco, and his trouble assimilating
into American culture. The Lighter and Softer
musical changes the focus to his son Ta's search for a bride.
The musical begins with Mei Li
and her father Dr. Li's illegal
arrival to San Francisco. Mei is in an arranged marriage with Sammy Fong, but he is already going steady with a showgirl at his nightclub, Femme Fatale
Linda Low. Linda has left Sammy because she is frustrated he won't marry her. Trying to get out of the marriage with Mei, Sammy introduces the new arrivals to Master Wang whose son Ta, a university student, is single. Mei quickly falls for Ta but Ta falls for Linda during a group date. Linda sets her sights on him as her future husband. But then
there's a third love interest, Helen Chao, Linda's Girl Next Door
friend who is also in love with Ta...
Although not among the most well-known musicals by the song-writing duo, the stage and film productions are notable for having almost all-Asian casts. Flower Drum Song
averts many negative tropes associated with Asians in American media during the 50s and 60s, including Mighty Whitey
, Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow
as seen in another Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The King and I
; and Yellowface
, though not all actors were Chinese or Chinese-American
Flower Drum Song contains examples of:
- Arranged Marriage: why Mei and her father are in America.
- Asian Airhead: Linda, the Ur Example.
- Betty and Veronica: Mei or Helen (Betty) and Linda (Veronica) to Ta.
- But Liquor Is Quicker: In the novel Helen gets Ta drunk and sleeps with him.
- Chinese Launderer: the emcee at Sammy's club jokes about being one.
- Anime Chinese Girls
- Culture Clash: Master Wang gradually becomes more open to the mainstream American lifestyle most of his family members already accept. "The Other Generation" is about the generation gap.
- Cut Song: "My Best Love."
- Also, "This Isn't Heaven," later used in the 1962 remake of State Fair.
- Disney Acid Sequence: "Sunday" became one in the movie.
- Dream Ballet: Helen dances with Ta in one.
- Driven to Suicide: Helen in the novel.
- Drowning My Sorrows
- Drunken Song: Ta sings "Gliding Through my Memories" after Drowning His Sorrows.
- Fake Nationality: a good number of the cast members in the film and broadway performances are of Japanese descent. In the film, Madame Liang is played by Juanita Long Hall, who is Afro-American.
- Femme Fatale: Linda.
- French Maid
- Girl Next Door: Helen in the musical and movie.
- Hopeless Suitor: Helen.
- "I Am" Song: "I Enjoy Being a Girl"
- The Illegal: Mei and Dr. Li.
- The Ingenue: Mei Li, helped by the fact that she's a foreigner.
- Lady in Red: Helen in her Qipao during the New Year's celebration, though she doesn't fulfill the Femme Fatale role in the film and musical.
- Lighter and Softer: the musical to the novel.
- Love Dodecahedron
- Modesty Towel: Linda during "I Enjoy Being a Girl" in the movie.
- Ms. Fanservice: Linda.
- Naked in Mink: evoked in the movie version of "I Enjoy Being A Girl."
- Parody: The fanfic Selleck Waterfall Sandwich is a parody of this movie.
- Qipao: many of the female characters wear a qipao at least once in the movie.
- Re Tool: The 2002 revival utilized a new libretto, in which Mei Li emigrates to America to escape Communism, and joins a theater troupe run by Master Wong. This version didn't last on Broadway very long.
- Self-Deprecation: Sammy Fong sings about his flaws to Mei Li in "Don't Marry Me".
- Solo Duet: In the movie, Linda sings "I Enjoy Being a Girl" along with reflections of her self in a three-way mirror, who come to life and try on different clothes.
- Stylistic Suck: the costumes in "Gliding Through my Memories."
- Why Waste a Wedding?
- Woman in White: Helen in her Dream Ballet.