Clutching her flower drum, young Mei-Li sneaks aboard a boat bound for San Francisco, desperate to escape the oppression of Communist China. As the boat sails, Mei-Li and her fellow refugees dream of life in America, far across the sea. Upon arriving in San Francisco, Mei-Li goes to see her father's friend, Wang, at his Chinatown opera house.
Widower Wang welcomes Mei-Li and introduces her to his son, the thoroughly Americanized Ta. Ta plays the "girl" in his father's show but is fed up with performing to an empty theatre every night. After the gifted Mei-Li enacts a warrior scene from another opera, Ta happily relinquishes his role, and dress, to her.
Ta then reveals his true passion: his very American, Friday night dance club. When Mei-Li observes that Ta is both "100% Chinese" and "100% American," Ta gets an idea. He'll design a new number for his nightclub show featuring "fresh off the boat maidens" who turn into all-American girls. Mei-Li marvels at the ease with which she has slid into her American family and, for the first time in a long time, dares to feel hopeful.
As Ta's dancers prepare to go on in the new number, Mei-Li sees Linda Low, the show's sexy star, strut into the club. Ta and Linda flirt, and Mei-Li asks Ta if they are engaged. Ta replies that in America, "couples date first, then marry." Eager to know more, Mei-Li introduces herself to Linda, who reassures her that she is not in love with Ta. Linda then extols the virtues of dating and the joys of "being a girl" in America. Ta's "refugee" number is a hit with the mostly white, male audience, and when Ta asks her for help on another dance, Mei-Li is thrilled. Wang and his fellow opera performer, Chin, however, are not so pleased. Calling Ta's show a "travesty,"
Wang orders an end to the Friday night club. Ta bristles at his father's power play, but Mei-Li gently defends Wang, pointing out the beauty of Wang's old Chinese opera tale, "The Flower Boat Maiden." The maiden, she says, shows her lover that he has "always been some-thing more," a god from heaven. Touched by Mei-Li's sensitivity, Ta kisses her. Before Mei-Li can react to Ta's kiss, theatrical agent Madame Rita Liang bursts in, announcing her desire to market the club for a broader audience. Wang protests, but Madame Liang's enthusiasm and determination win out, and the stuffy opera house is transformed into the dazzling Club Chop Suey.
On opening night, Mei-Li shows Ta her flower drum and assures him that on this special night, all his dreams will come true. They kiss again, but Ta, worried that Mei-Li is becoming too attached, suggests they have a "long talk" after the show. Mei-Li assumes Ta intends to propose and, with Linda's help, dons high heels and a western gown.
Wang's fury about Ta's risqu? production dissolves when Chin reveals that the "Mayor himself" plans to attend the last show. Just before the last show, Wang, a ham at heart, steals a costume and goes on. Wang is a hit and, giddy with success, decides to change his name to Uncle Sammy Fong, in honor of "Uncle Sam." Thus, in an instant, the old world gives way to the new.
Mei-Li, however, retreats to the old world after she overhears Ta telling Linda that Mei-Li is too "Chinese" for his tastes. Ta also makes a play for Linda and opts to go out with his father and a Hollywood movie star instead of meeting Mei-Li. Suddenly Mei-Li's hope turns to despair, and not even the gentle encouragement of Chin can cheer her up. She decides to leave the club and find her own life in America.
Six months later, the Club Chop Suey continues to draw big crowds, with Wang as its wacky emcee. Wang and Madame Liang count their ticket money with glee, convinced that, through their wealth and popularity, they have become truly American. Wang realizes that, for the first time in twenty years, he is happy, and his attraction for Madame Liang grows. Ta and Linda, however, grow increasingly unhappy. Linda frets that Wang has stolen the spotlight from her, while Ta complains that instead of being accepted by the mainstream, he feels "more Chinese than ever." As Linda declares she is moving to Hollywood, Ta worries about Mei-Li.
Anxious to reunite the would-be lovers, Chin tells Ta that Mei-Li is working at a fortune cookie company and advises him to go to her. At the fortune cookie company, Ta discovers that Mei-Li has become engaged to the factory's sincere but dull owner. Now thoroughly confused, Ta contemplates running away with Linda, while Mei-Li prepares to return to Hong Kong with her fiance. Before Ta and Mei-Li can find happiness, they must complete their emotional journeys. Ta must convince Mei-Li, and himself, of his love. More important, however, Ta must learn to accept himself as a Chinese American and become the great man Mei-Li sees "in his eyes."
The book and/or lyrics is provided for informational and entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended.
By clicking the download button, you agree to use the downloaded file for personal use only.