Dames at Sea's "Singapore Sue" Problem

Chris Peterson

Last week there was an outcry over the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players decision to perform The Mikado , even though much of the design of the characters would be considered "yellowface" and incredibly offensive to the Asian community. In response to the protest, they decided not to perform the production. 

Given the level of discussion raised due to this issue, you would think the producers and creative of Broadway's upcoming "Dames at Sea" would re-think their inclusion of the incredibly racist song, "Singapore Sue", in the score. 

Now in case you're wondering why we, Asians, might be offended by the use of this song. Here are some of the magical lyrics:

Where are you my oriental pearl?
Where are you my lovely China girl?
Ever since you vanished in the Malay evening,
there's no beauty in this lonely world!

So sweet and soft and gentle,
my favorite oriental,
the nicest girl ashore is Singapore Sue.

Of all the Chinese lasses,
the only one that passes
with such a perfect score,
is Singapore Sue. 

Now director Randy Skinner has said that some of the lyrics have been changed, removing the term,"oriental" for instance

However, the real question is, why does the song needed to be included at all? It doesn't advance the plot whatsoever and if I'm not mistaken, "Dames at Sea" isn't at a level of reverence that changes can't be made before its Broadway debut, like taking out an offensive and needless number from the show for instance.

Plus when you include a song like this, you're inviting some overly insulting costume design choices as well, photo proof to your right. 

Skinner stated to Metro US that we shouldn't be worried about being offended by the scene. 

"I think when you see it you will think 'Oh wow, this can be done!'" Skinner said as he explained the steps taken in anticiaption. "It's very important to do that today with any subject matter depending what you might be singing about or talking about if it involves a take on a certain minority — you have to be very sensitive to those issues."

Again, I ask, why do you have to put yourself in a position of trying to tone down a racist song? 

Skinner has stated that the design has been altered in order not to be racist and that there isn't any indication of "yellowface."

Yet sources are reporting, exclusively to me, that at last night's first preview, there was Caucasian actor, John Bolton, dressed as an Asian male, complete with a Fu Manchu.....Someone needs to remind Randy Skinner what "yellowface" is. 

While it's previews, and things can always change, it's clear that Skinner and his team need to seriously re-think their decision to include this song.

I know the musical parodies the 1930's but that doesn't mean it has to adopt the racial attitudes of the time as well. 

UPDATE: It's been reported to me by several sources that while the Fu Manchu has been removed. The song remains and all have said its offensive.