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A hundred million miracles are happening every day!
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 Me Love You Long Time, Mighty Whitey 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.
- Breakaway Pop Hit: For all the covers "I Enjoy Being a Girl" receives, it seems a little unlikely that many people can name the musical it originated from, or even recognize it as a Rodgers and Hammerstein piece.
- 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."
- 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.
- Hey, It's That Guy!
- Juanita Long plays Madame Liang, but is more well-known for playing Bloody Mary in South Pacific.
- Patrick Adiarte, who plays Wang San, was also the crown prince in The King and I.
- Miyoshi Umeki was recommended to Rogers and Hammerstein as Mei Li after her work in Sayonara.
- Nancy Kwan plays Linda Low in the film. She had recently starred in The World Of Suzie Wong.
- Fans of Barney Miller and M*A*S*H will recognize Jack Soo (Sgt. Nick Yemana) as Sammy Fong.
- 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.
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: The movie did not come to DVD until 2006, seven years after Rodgers and Hammerstein movies started coming to DVD. Even the long-lost TV special Cinderella and the widely panned State Fair remake beat it to the punch.
- 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.
- Retool: The 2002 revival utilized a new libretto, in which Mei Li emigrates to America to escape Communism, and joins a theater troupe run by Wang Ta's father. This version didn't last on Broadway very long.
- Stylistic Suck: the costumes in "Gliding Through my Memories."
- Why Waste a Wedding?
- Woman in White: Helen in her Dream Ballet.