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Celebrate 61 Years of Flower Drum Song

Nine years after Carousel 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!

What to Expect From Nickelodeon’s The SpongeBob Musical: Live On Stage!

Following its run on Broadway, members of the original Broadway company of The SpongeBob Musical: Live On Stage! reunited to film the show for television in front of a live theatre audience. The SpongeBob Musical: Live On Stage! will air on Nickelodeon December 7. In the video above, original Tony-nominated star Ethan Slater and director Tina Landau tell audiences what to expect from this version of the Bikini Bottom-based tale.

“I feel like there’s all these different versions of SpongeBob floating around in the universe, and this one I’m particularly excited about and proud of because it’s the original gang,” shared director Tina Landau.

Tina Landau
Tina Landau Marc J. Franklin

As previously announced, much of the original company reprised their performances, including Tony Award nominee Ethan Slater, who made his Broadway debut as the titular high-energy sponge. Joining him are fellow original Broadway company members Tony nominee Gavin Lee as Squidward Q. Tentacles, Danny Skinner as Patrick Star, Brian Ray Norris as Eugene Krabs, and Wesley Taylor as Sheldon Plankton, and Christina Sajous (who joined the Broadway cast six months into the run) as Sandy Cheeks.

Rounding out the ensemble are Kyle Matthew Hamilton, Katie Lee Hill, Curtis Holbrook, L’ogan J’ones, Jai’len Josey, Kelvin Moon Loh, Lauralyn McClelland, Vasthy Mompoint, Bryonha Parham, Oneika Phillips, Jon Rua, JC Schuster, Abby C. Smith, Robert Taylor Jr., and Allan Washington.

“There’s actually some bonuses in the version of this show that have never been seen before that he does, physically, in particular,” says Landau of Slater.

“That was the exciting thing about coming back!” Slater says above.

Veteran SpongeBob SquarePants voice actor Tom Kenny—who voiced the animated SpongeBob, French narrator, and Patchy the Pirate—will perform the original Sara Bareilles song “Poor Pirates” onstage as Patchy the Pirate.

“I’ve had a blast portraying live-action suburban buccaneer and President of the SpongeBob SquarePants Fan Club, Patchy the Pirate, since the character’s first appearance in Season 2 of SpongeBob SquarePants—way back in 2000,” said Kenny in a statement. “I loved The SpongeBob Musical, and I was thrilled to be included in it both in pre-recorded (French Narrator) and songwriter (‘Best Day Ever’) forms! But to now have the opportunity to actually step onstage and perform alongside members of the original Broadway production is truly a unique honor. It’s ‘meta times 10,’ and I think Nickelodeon’s audience will really get a kick out of it!”

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The show, re-branded as The SpongeBob Musical for its national tour, features a book by Kyle Jarrow and an eclectic score from a variety of pop artists: Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alexander Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, They Might Be Giants, and T.I., as well as the late David Bowie, Tom Kenny (TV’s original SpongeBob), and Andy Paley.

READ: How Director Tina Landau Found the Broadway Musical in SpongeBob SquarePants

Tina Landau directed the inventive and unconventional staging, which offered human representations of the beloved characters rather than literal depictions from the familiar cartoon. The TV presentation reunites her with her Broadway creative team: music supervisor and orchestrator Tom Kitt, choreographer Christopher Gattelli, set and costume designer David Zinn, lighting designer Kevin Adams, projection designer Peter Nigrini, foley artist Mike Dobson, and sound designer Walter Trarbach.

The SpongeBob Musical: Live On Stage! is produced for TV by Austin Shaw and directed by Glenn Weiss. Nickelodeon vice presidents Paul J Medford and Susan Vargo serve as executive producers.

See Tony Winner Betty Buckley Perform With Jason Robert Brown at SubCulture

Betty Buckley, who recently concluded a year-long run in the national tour of the Tony-winning revival of Hello, Dolly!, was fellow Tony winner Jason Robert Brown’s special guest for his November 23–25 artist-in-residence concerts at SubCulture.

“There are singers, and there is Betty Buckley. There are actors, and there is Betty Buckley. There are legends, and there is Betty Buckley,” said Brown in an earlier statement. “Betty and I have been circling each other for 20 years, looking for the right opportunity to collaborate, and I can’t believe it’s finally here. The greatest joy of this residency has been the opportunity to make music with artists who I have long admired, and Betty is at the top of that list. I’ve written a brand-new song for Betty to premiere, and we’re going to explore a lot of other great stuff from my catalog (and a couple of other crazy surprises). It’ll be me, Betty, a group of amazing string players, and three glorious nights at the best music venue in New York.”

READ: Jason Robert Brown Says Betty Buckley’s Version of His ’Hope’ Did the ’Virtually Impossible’

“I am so thrilled to be a part of Jason Robert Brown’s monthly residency at SubCulture!” added Buckley. “I have been his fan for so many years, now, and have recorded his songs on several of my albums. I was delighted when he called in September, right after I finished my year in the Hello, Dolly! national tour inviting me to do this. Learning some new songs of Jason’s and bringing back some of my faves of his. I can’t wait!”

Broadway favorite Buckley earned a Tony Award for her performance as Grizabella in the original production of Cats, having previously appeared on Broadway in Pippin and 1776. Her additional memorable performances include the title role in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Margaret White in the short-lived cult favorite musical Carrie (having previously played gym teacher Miss Collins in the film adaptation of the Stephen King novel), Sunset Boulevard (both on Broadway and in the West End, for which she received an Olivier nomination), and Triumph of Love (earning her a second Tony nod).

Flip through photos from the concert below: