San Francisco’s Chinatown is a little harder on its immigrants than it was a couple generations ago, or so David Henry Hwang’s rework of the classic Flower Drum Song says. The dutiful enclave that greeted mousy newbie Wu Mei-Li on Broadway in 1958 now teems with the grit of day, illustrated through some edgier characters and younger, hipper casts. These values drive Flower Drum Song, a Musical Revival in Concert, the current entry from San Diego Asian American Repertory Theatre—and the personnel are up to the task, invested in the culture of ensemble it takes to pull this off.
Wu (Mindy Ella Chu), an opera singer whose late father was imprisoned in China for defying the communists, lands a gig in a Chinatown nightclub and promptly falls for the owner’s son, Wang Ta (David Armstrong), who’s got designs on stripper Linda Low (an excellent Tiffany Loui). Wu gets her man, although Hwang rushes things in the process. He never fills out the equation with Mei-li’s romantic escapades (or lack of them) in her homeland, so we’re unaware of the traditions she’s doing her best to shed as she seeks to assimilate.
But there’s so much great physical typecasting here, too. Director Peter James Cirino, an SDSU theater professor, gets volumes from Wu’s hangdog expressions and Linda’s comely dance moves. Loui is in good voice amid “I Enjoy Being a Girl,” arguably the show’s most recognizable number, and the cast’s hopeful “A Hundred Million Miracles” sets the tone.
Asian American Rep is the latest resident company in La Jolla Playhouse’s Resident Theatre Program, designed to provide an affordable temporary space to a homeless troupe. Developed by Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley, the program is in its fourth year.
Flower Drum Song, a Musical Revival in Concert runs through June 12 at the Theodore and Adele Shank Theatre, at the corner of Scholars Drive South and Revelle College Drive at UCSD. $15-$25. asianamericanrep.org
Bash: Latterday Plays: A woman tells of her tragic relationship with her English teacher, a Utah businessman confesses a chilling crime to a stranger and a young Mormon couple separately recounts the violent events of an anniversary weekend in New York City. Produced by Ion Theatre Company, the shows open in previews May 25 at BLK BOX @ 6th & Penn in Hillcrest. $10-$29. iontheatre.com
A Chorus Line: A chorus of New Yorkers have different ambitions but one goal in mind—to land a job in a Broadway show. Produced by San Diego Musical Theatre, it opens in previews May 27 at The Lyceum Theatre, Downtown. $30-$60. sandiegomusicaltheatre.com Swingtime Canteen: This show looks at the films and personalities that defined the American consciousness during World War II. Opens May 27 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. $10-$20. onstageplayhouse.org
Much Ado about Nothing: While Beatrice and Benedick hide their infatuation beneath witty barbs, young love blossoms as Hero and Claudio race to the altar, with the wicked Don John conspiring to break up the wedding. Opens in previews May 29 at The Old Globe Theatre’s Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. $29-$67. oldglobe.org
Mamma Mia!: On the eve of her wedding, a woman’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago. Produced by Broadway / San Diego, it opens May 31 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. $33.50- $102.50. broadwaysd.com
* Curse of the Starving Class: A faded family struggles for control of its farm as its members search for freedom, security and meaning. Produced by Triad Productions, it runs through May 28 at The Tenth Avenue Theatre, Downtown. $15-$25. seemoreplays.com
* Underground Play Festival: God, compassion and forgotten lives are among the topics explored in this two-week showcase of plays by UCSD theater undergrads. Through June 4 at the Arthur Wagner Theatre on campus. $5. theatre.ucsd.edu
Raisin’ the Rent: When Papa Du found himself down on his luck at rent time, he didn’t moan and groan; he just threw himself a party. Produced by the Ira Aldridge Players, it runs through June 5 at the Lafayette Hotel in North Park. $27.50 show, $45 show and dinner. iarpplayers. org
The Life of Riley: Terminally ill George Riley has deeply affected his friends’ lives, and he’s now plotting a final farewell that could upset their futures. Produced by The Old Globe Theatre, it runs through June 5 at The Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in Balboa Park. $29- $67. oldglobe.org
A Dram of Drummhicit: An American entrepreneur has found the perfect Scottish island on which to build his new golf course—but as secrets are unearthed, the true nature of the island wreaks havoc. Produced by La Jolla Playhouse, it runs through June 12 at the Mandell Weiss Theatre at UCSD. $36-$59. lajollaplayhouse.org
* August: Osage County: The obsolescent Violet Weston is the main culprit as her faded family chokes on its secrets, lies and deception. Through June 12 at The Old Globe Theatre mainstage in Balboa Park. $29-$67. oldglobe.org
Rounding Third: Coaches Don and Michael have very different views on their Little League team—Donald wants the kids to win, while Michael wants them to enjoy the game. Produced by Scripps Ranch Theatre, it runs through June 25 at the Legler-Benbough Theatre in Scripps Ranch. $10-$22. scrippsranchtheatre.org
* miXtape: Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lamb’s Players Theatre, it runs through July 17 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. $28-$58. lambsplayers.org