It was quite a thrill at the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York on December 4 when the audience leapt to their feet as Flower Drum Song stars from the 1958 Broadway production, 1961 movie and first road company, joined actors from the 2002 revival company and the first national touring company for a once-in-a-lifetime reunion onstage during the opening number of Red Bucket Follies.
The opening number of Red Bucket Follies, which celebrated the 60th Anniversary of Flower Drum Song and honored the legacy of Asian-Americans on Broadway, was produced by and benefits Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Paying tribute to the trailblazing productions of Flower Drum Song, the 9-minute segment also included Asian Americans currently on Broadway featured in excerpts from “A Hundred Million Miracles”, “You Are Beautiful”, “Grant Avenue”, I Enjoy Being a Girl”, and “Fan Tan Fannie”. The number was conceived by Lainie Sakakura and Telly Leung, and written by Lainie Sakakura, cast members from the 2002 David Henry Hwang revisal of Flower Drum Song.
“Flower Drum Song has been in my life since I was a little girl,” shared Sakakura. “My Mother played Mei Li in a regional CA production with Jack Soo, Robert Ito, and Patrick Adiarte. I would watch the movie countless times, fascinated that my mother performed with these same actors.
In 2002, I had the opportunity to choose between the David Henry Hwang revival or a new Broadway show that I was already working on as an Associate Choreographer. The dance captain of Flower Drum Song said to me, “This revival is incredible. It is our West Side Story.” He was right. Our show would forever change me and our company would become my family in the truest sense. I wrote the 2018 Red Bucket Follies Opening Number to honor all those who came before us, to celebrate all those currently performing on Broadway, and to inspire the next generation of beautiful Asian American artists including my own daughters Avelina and Isabela.”
Leung and Sakakura pitched the concept of the opening to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ Producing Director Valerie Lau-Kee Lai in February 2018, and then to Lau-Kee Lai and Executive Director Tom Viola on March 15, 2018, where they were given the green light on the spot.
Alex Sanchez directed and choreographed the number.
“It was meaningful for me to direct and choreograph the Red Bucket Follies opening because it was important for me to be a part of celebrating the contribution, influence, and triumph of Asian actors in American Theater,” said Sanchez. “When Lainie Sakakura was in the 2002 Broadway Revival of Flower Drum Song, I saw the show ten times. Lainie and I married during the run and I became part of the family. We now have two daughters, and Flower Drum Song was the first musical they sang in our living room. Our opening honors those who came before us, and reminds us that to know your future, you must first know your past. Having the opportunity to share these themes and work with the original 1958 Broadway company to share their story on Broadway, filled my heart with great joy.”
Flower Drum Song features music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, original Broadway revival choreography by Robert Longbottom, music direction by Ted Arthur, additional lyrics by Vanessa Brown, Lainie Sakakura, orchestrations by Adam Kaufman and costume design by Jeremy Bailey-Smith.
Performers: Aaron J. Albano, Sandra Allen, Susan Ancheta, Alan Ariano, Paula Chin, Marcus Choi, Adrianne Chu, Ma-Anne Dionisio, Ali Ewoldt, Takayo Fischer, Lydia Gaston, Sally Hong, Joomin Hwang, Jason Garcia Ignacio, Sabrina Imamura, Miho Imoto, Alvin Ing, Nina Zoie Lam, Telly Leung, Jose Llana, Baayork Lee, Jodi Long, J. Elaine Marcos, Paul HeeSang Miller, Carol Gordon Morra, Kumiko Nakagawa, Ashley Park, Victoria Racimo, Catherine Ricafort, Lainie Sakakura, Rommy Sandhu, Herman Sebek, Riza Takahashi, Yuka Takara, Robert Tatad, Virginia Wing, Mae Wong, Ericka Yang, Warren Yang, Kelli Youngman, Lisa Yuen and Minami Yusui.
On Sunday morning, December 2, 2018, I joined the company in rehearsal at Pearl Studios in New York.
Later that evening, many of us reconvened at the NAAP gala celebrating Alvin Ing and Yuriko at Golden Unicorn in Chinatown.
Alvin Ing and Yuriko Kikuchi to be Honored at NAAP Gala 2018 Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of FLOWER DRUM SONG on December 2
December 3, 2018 – A FLOWER DRUM SONG reunion party at Spoonfed after the first RED BUCKET FOLLIES performance. Randy Witherspoon, the proprietor of Spoonfed, was one of the dressers on Flower Drum Song.
Red Bucket Follies raised $6,113,301 for Broadway Cares, the highest fall fundraising total in Broadway Cares’ 30-year history. The show celebrated six weeks of enthusiastic fundraising by 67 Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring shows for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Red Bucket Follies was directed by Jason Trubitt with Matthew Kurtis Lutz serving as production stage manager, leading a team of 11 accomplished stage managers. Ben Cohn was music supervisor, and Ted Arthur was music director. Lighting design was by Joel Shier with sound by Marie Renee Foucher and Kurt Fischer.
Red Bucket Follies builds on the 29-year legacy of the Gypsy of the Year Competition. Since 1989,Gypsy of the Year raised $76 million to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Red Bucket Folliesbrings that total to $82 million.
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. By drawing upon the talents, resources, and generosity of the American theatre community, since 1988 Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has raised more than $300 million for essential services for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States.
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is the major supporter of the social service programs at The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative and the Samuel J. Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts. Broadway Cares also awards annual grants to more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., providing lifesaving medication, healthy meals, counseling and emergency assistance.
For more information, please visit Broadway Cares online at broadwaycares.org.
BC/EFA’s RED BUCKET FOLLIES Celebrates Asian Americans on Broadway and the 60th Anniversary of FLOWER DRUM SONG
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.