Leave ‘Flower Drum’ Alone

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If David Henry Hwang really thinks that “Flower Drum Song” is any more racially offensive than a box of Rice-a-Roni, then he needs to pull his head out of his politically correct navel (“Let the Debate Begin,” by Michael Phillips, Sept. 16).

The musical was based on a novel by Chin Y. Lee, a native Chinese who immigrated to the U.S. in 1947; and except for inventing a single additional character and lightening the tone, Oscar Hammerstein II and Joseph Fields remained absolutely faithful to Lee’s vision--a vision, perhaps, that is not as relevant today as it was in 1957. So what?

Being Jewish, I admit that certain outmoded aspects of “Fiddler on the Roof” cause me to wince as well; however, this does not invalidate the story’s breathtaking authenticity when it was first written by Sholem Aleichem a century ago.


Theater reflects a living record of the epochal changes in our heritage during the times they occurred--and to sanction the sort of wholesale evisceration that Hwang has visited upon poor “Flower Drum Song” is to erase entire pages of human history and render pointless the whole concept of musical revivals.


Santa Monica