Archive for January, 2009



January 12, 2009

In my article about movie musicals making a comeback, I mentioned a musical called ONE RED FLOWER. For those of you who may not recall, this musical is taken from the book LETTERS FROM ‘NAM, in which you can read actual letters written to and from the soldiers who fought in that terrible war. The musical focuses on a mother and six soldiers whose stories are told in song through these letters and poems. I find myself thinking a lot about this musical lately. Not necessarily because of the tensions in the Middle east, or anything political like that. No. I’ve just been thinking about how much this musical moved me even more than the commercial successes of LES MISERABLES, MISS SAIGON or RAGTIME (and those are three heavy hitters in the deeply moving department).

Let me explain. I learned about ONE RED FLOWER from a friend of mine who is a member of ALL THAT CHAT over at She saw it in Washington D.C> in either 1999 or 2000, and couldn’t say enough about it. Next thing I know, the North Shore Music Theatre announced ONE RED FLOWER as part of the 2001/2002 season, beginning in September of 2001. Even better news: a bus tour company i was familiar with announced a day trip to see FLOWER. Talk about opportunity knocking. It was pounding on the door.
Well, I don’t need to remind you about what happened at the beginning of September of 2001. I still have raw memories of that day. Those memories were still fresh about two weeks later, when i boarded the bus to Beverly, MA. After our lunch stop at a very good steakhouse, we were at North Shore.

Nothing, and I mean nothing could have prepared me for what I would see or how I would feel. Like every great musical, the opening number, “I Was There”, engaged me with it’s simple, yet driving rock melody, and straightforward lyrics. I was with them, and I began to follow the structure of the piece quite well, learning a lot about the soldiers’ experiences along the way. All the time, the emotional intensity of FLOWER was building and building. Then came the boiling point in a protest song called “I Don’t Understand This War”. Just as that song reachedits climax, the soundtrack of the lunar landing broke in over the sound system, and were back with three of the soldiers in the jungle, staring up into a starry sky, listening. The local time was “4:16 A.M.” The soldiers, arms on each others’ shoulders, sang about how in that moment, they knew who they were, what they were doing, and where they belonged. This is the Act 1 closer, and by the time it was done, I was unable to speak. I honestly expected that if I dared to open my mouth, I would be crying so uncontrollably that they’d have to ask me to leave the theatre.
Act 2 wasn’t about to let me off the hook either. Sure it opened with a lighter song called “Saigon Tea”, but that was about as light-hearted as it would get. The unforgettable title song shows up in Act 2, as does a heart-breaker caled “There Will Still Be Christmas”, and the gut wrenching finale “If You Are Able”. The theatre was on its feet, roaring its approval at the end. I rode home, thinking that I had to find a way to tell Paris Barclay how much his show moved me. I found his e-mail address, and did just that. He wrote back with a quick note, thanking me for my support.
It’s been eight years since I first had the experience, and I find myself wishing I could experience it in some way again. I find it sadly interesting that despite the praise from audiences and press reviews, there’s STILL NO cast album! I’ve made inquiries, and done searches, but no luck. So I’m putting the word out to the recording companies, get in touch with Paris Barclay, and get him and his cast into the studio, PLEASE! I can’t afford to fly out to wherever it’s playing, I can’t even afford to go to see a play in Providence, right now, but that’s beside the point. A cast album would be great for me and other fans who can’t get out to see it. I’d even settle for a few clips on YouTube, but that’s not my call to make.
In closing, I am so grateful that I had the chance to see ONE RED FLOWER, and I hope many more of you get the chance to see it, too. Just be sure to have enough Kleenex.