Nine years after South Pacific 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.”
Adapted into a film in 1961, the show wasn't revived on Broadway until 2002, in a heavily revised production written by David Henry Hwang and starring Lea Salonga and Jose Llana.
Among those in the ensemble of the 1958 premiere was Baayork Lee. “It was such an 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.
Relive the original production 61 years later with the photo gallery below!