November, 2001

A Hundred Million Miracles
By George Takei

LOS ANGELES – Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Flower Drum Song” opened at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles a few weeks ago as a sparkling, new musical. Yes, a new musical. A scintillatingly fresh play -- much different from the one most theatergoers associate with that title. Of course, theater devotees know that “Flower Drum Song” originally debuted on Broadway in 1958 and became another smash triumph for Rogers and Hammerstein, moving on to become a hugely successful movie. The new Los Angeles production – a hit show performing to sell-out audiences that has been extended to mid-January 2002 -- is dramatically changed from the 50’s version.


David Henry Hwang, the Tony Award winning playwright of “M Butterfly” and the Disney musical “Aida,” approached the Rogers and Hammerstein estate with a revolutionary proposal – to “re-envision” one of their hit musicals. The estate is famous for its strict policy. It had never allowed even a simple change of dialogue in any of the classic works of Rogers and Hammerstein, much less a complete rewrite. But the ideas that Hwang proposed were so right and so dramatically potent, indeed, infused the story of a Chinese immigrant girl to San Francisco’s Chinatown with such contemporary relevance, that the Rogers and Hammerstein estate was persuaded. Its only condition – the songs must remain intact. The result is a fabulous new musical. This “Flower Drum Song,” with a completely new book by David Henry Hwang, is dramatically tighter, more deeply moving and spectacularly sexy and jazzy. It was so entertaining I saw it twice. I’m told that this production will soon be wending its way to Broadway.


The opening song from the production is the sweet and philosophic, “A Hundred Million Miracles.” It recounts the blessings of life, despite its many hurdles, disappointments, and difficulties.


As I listened to the final reprise of “A Hundred Million Miracles,” I couldn’t help but be reminded of this, the final month of the first year of the 21st century. 2001 has been a turbulent beginning to the new century, forever marked by the most horrific terrorist atrocity in history. It has been a year of a new kind of warfare, of global economic recession, and of soaring unemployment. The tragedies and human suffering have been on an unbearably gargantuan scale. On a personal note, my ailing 89-year-old mother has been rushed to the emergency ward on two occasions in recent months, and she is now in a convalescent hospital.


And yet, in the tangle of heartbreak and anguish, we still must find the place in our hearts to appreciate the miracle of the gifts that life grants us. My nephew’s little girl celebrated her 2nd birthday in September. Little Hana is now looking forward to welcoming her new baby brother, due next month. My niece married her handsome love on a beautiful beach in Maui, Hawaii, last January. Good times shared with friends and relatives glow warmly among this year’s memories. Moments spent with devoted fans at Star Trek conventions from Portland, Ore.; Pasadena, Calif.; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Las Vegas; Philadelphia to Indianapolis, Ind., become cherished but all-too-fleeting instances of contact. So, too, with chance encounters, whether in Japan, Europe, Louisville, Kentucky or Long Island, N.Y. -- encounters that have become warm friendships. In a year that started out with such soaring optimism and became fraught with such calamitous horrors, let us not forget the hundred million little miracles that happen to us every day.


My heartiest holiday cheers to all. Let us count all the miracles -- those wonderful little gifts that life gives us.

Visit the official Flower Drum Song Site: www.flowerdrumsong.com



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