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A PEEK AT FLOWER DRUM SONG

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by haineshisway, Jul 19, 2019.

  1. Rick Thompson

    Rick Thompson Screenwriter

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    The Hwang version, incorrectly billed as "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song," opened to disintrerest on Broadway and so had only a short run. One of the biggest problems was that the songs didn't quite fit the new plot. Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote very tightly to character and situation, and when you change both character and situation you can't expect the song to do the job it was written to do. In short, it wasn't what it said in the program because it wasn't what Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote. It was David Henry Hwang's adaptation of the novel (and not a real close one at that), with the songs stuck in where he thought they might work. He would have been better served to call it, say, "A Hundred Million Miracles," thereby acknowledging the debt to the original while also signalling that this was a separate piece with its own identity. Better yet, he should have gotten a composer and lyricist to write an entirely new score fitted to his book. He had and still has the talent and standing on Broadway to get quality collaborators to work with him.
     
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  2. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    The Hwang revival is correctly called “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song” as it was done under the auspices of the R&H Organization specifically to make the show revivable in current times. It wasn’t done to be a fresh version of the original novel or story, but as a way to make that specifical musical (with that specific score) viable with modern audiences.
     
  3. Rick Thompson

    Rick Thompson Screenwriter

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    So you jettison the plot, substitute an entirely new one, move all the songs around, add one the authors specifically cut, and you've still got the same show the original authors wrote? Yes, the R&H Organization sanctioned it, but that doesn't make it so. It was simply a way to make the property more likely to generate income. Nothing wrong with doing that; indeed, one of the responsibilities of the organization is to exploit the copyrights to the fullest. But let's be honest with what the result is. For better or worse, it ain't what R&H (and Joseph Fields) wrote.
     
  4. Ken Koc

    Ken Koc Screenwriter

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    I saw it on Broadway and disliked it immensely .
    Watching the film version with an all asian cast in the 60's...just wonderful.
     
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  5. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    The show is perfectly revivable as it was written - it's BS that it would be a problem now because - wait for it - the show is set in the 1950s, not now. If you do it with an all-Asian cast of great talent, it would work just fine. It didn't need Mr. Hwang's help. I saw the first workshop of it and at that point the end of act one was the interpolated The Next Time It Happens. I told Ted Chapin that was a travesty and that no amount of Chinese food in the accompaniment was going to make it work. I think it was out by the time they hit LA, but I repeated that comment relentlessly until they cut it.

    The poor audiences of today - everyone panders to them and why? Everyone told me that Li'l Abner could never work today - no one remembers the comic strip, no one cares, it's not relevant... Well, I did it, it worked perfectly, got huge, screaming laughter, and everyone loved it - every review was a rave. I didn't write program notes, I didn't make a pre-curtain speech about the show, I trusted the audience and, more importantly, I trusted the material and merely did what any creative person would do with a show originally directed by a choreographer - I streamlined it to two hours exactly and made a few adjustments, but the adjustments were ALL written by the original writers.

    Flower Drum Song speaks to the period in which it was written, the characters are wonderful, and it's a lot of fun and even has something to say. Trust the damn material, and then trust the audience. I would love to revive it if I could cast it properly.
     
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  6. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor
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    Li’l Abner certainly can stand on its own as does Flower Drum Song. Both are favorites of mine, musical and film.

    I do hope for a Blu of both films.
     
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  7. Message #27 of 126 Jul 21, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2019
    rsmithjr

    rsmithjr Screenwriter

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    Yes, I like much of your analysis.

    A better approach (that would have probably satisfied the R&H organization) would have been to retain the plot, characters, and story arc but to rewrite some of the dialogue and rework some of the individual scenes. It could have retained the original's emphasis on assimilation while strengthening the immigrant experience elements of the original. It is known that original director Gene Kelly tried to add jokes to the original, and removing some of these might have strengthened the story. Give it a bit more timelessness, which is a main reason for the ongoing success of the R&H musicals.

    As it stands, I still really like the original, it seems to be hard to get it done. Here in Palo Alto, the Hwang version was very successful and was supported by our local Chinese community. [Palo Alto has a 30% ethnically Chinese population now.]

    The 42nd Street Moon company in SF has adopted a practice of taking "old and new" versions of the same story and producing them together. I have been trying to talk them into doing the old and new versions of Flower Drum Song, I think it might be revealing.
     
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  8. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    I’m not taking a side for either version, but the fact remains the show was not revived at all in the 40 years between the film and the Hwang version. No Lincoln Center, no Broadway, no National Tour, unlike their other hits.

    Also, if Asians want to have their own voice in the telling of their assimilation stories instead of just white men’s voices, I wouldn’t call it “pandering.” It’s not that a straight men couldn’t write a successful lesbian themed play, but why is it “pandering” if a lesbian writer wanted to bring a more authentic voice to it? Or Asian. Or African-American.
     
  9. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    It was actually done all through the 1960s everywhere - I have tons of summer stock ads for it with all sorts of interesting folks. It had a national tour that was very successful - I think it even played Vegas. It became infrequent in the 1970s, and non-existent thereafter, and I believe that had a lot to do with needing a hugely talented all-Asian cast. As you know, the Broadway version (and tour) had white people in it, which was a problem then and obviously unthinkable now. As to "...if Asians want to have their own voice in the telling of their assimilation stories..." Easy answer is, write them, don't screw around with an existing show. Write your own damn show and say whatever you want. Read the novel sometime - it goes to some dark places, but the musical is pretty true to most of its spirit and characters.
     
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  10. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Bruce is certainly right about the Vudu free-with-ads version. I watched it tonight, and picture and sound were fabulous. I didn't remember THAT much dancing from earlier viewings of the movie, but Hermes Pan tried his best to make this a dance show (and threw in two "dream ballets" - one serious and one comic) for good measure. A fair amount of dubbing for the cast, too, but they were all matched well with their non-singing counterparts.
     
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  11. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    I wasn’t referring to local productions. I was talking about revivals. Even the R&H Org acknowledges it had no revivals for 40 years, unlike the other hits. (Not counting Pipe Dream and Me and Juliet.)

    As far as productions, people are free to license the Fields/Hammerstein version. It hasn’t been replaced. A company can choose which production they wish to mount. That’s twice the chance to expose new people to the score. And of course the Lee novel and the film (which Lee disliked) are unchanged for anybody who’s interested.
     
  12. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    It is, perhaps, and I know this is heresy, my favorite R&H score. I was not aware they were still licensing the original version. That actually makes me want to do the show :)
     
  13. richardburton84

    richardburton84 Stunt Coordinator

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    I still need to see this one, though I like what I’ve heard in the clips I’ve seen of it, so hoping a Blu-ray can come out soon so I can fix that. As for my favorite R&H score, I’m going to have to go Cinderella (which I’m sure will be considered just as heretical), though Carousel is a close second.
     
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  14. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Reading an article on the original musical, some idiot claimed the score threw off no popular hits apart from possibly "I Enjoy Being a Girl." Sacrilege! "Love, Look Away" has been a popular hit and one of the most beautiful ballads in the entire R&H catalog.
     
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  15. TJPC

    TJPC Producer

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    No one has revived “Allegro” I don’t think either. “Me and Juliet” doesn’t even have a modern recording. It’s OC one indicates it is full of 1950s pretentious elements making it unrevivable. The other two in modern recordings at least sound like hidden gems, especially “Pipe Dream”.
     
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  16. RichMurphy

    RichMurphy Second Unit

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  17. bujaki

    bujaki Producer

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    I saw ALLEGRO with the original orchestrations and it is very much a concept musical long before Sondheim (who was "interning" for "Uncle Oscar" during this show), and the influence on Sondheim is quite palpable. I loved the show which was way ahead of its time.
     
  18. bujaki

    bujaki Producer

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    Love, Look Away was stolen by Lea Salonga for the revival. This is the one ballad for the mezzo: talk about unfair!
     
  19. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    Lea Salonga didn't steal anything - it was done by Mr. Hwang.
     
  20. bujaki

    bujaki Producer

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    True.
     

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