How Leslie Li's grandparents met is the perfect opening for a Hollywood meet cute story.

Teenage Polish immigrant Michalina "Lena" Wojcik was walking across a Minneapolis bridge when a gust of wind took her very first paycheck in America from her hand. She chased it across the span, but the wind kept carrying it just out of reach.

The chase was finally stopped by the foot of a handsome young man who was crossing the bridge from the other side. Louie Shear Gim, a teenage immigrant but from China, picked up the check and handed it to a grateful Lena, stopping her palpitations for one pursuit but starting them for another.

The two would eventually marry and have six children. The oldest four — Alice, Maggie, Jenée and Bubbles — formed the Kim Loo Sisters, the stage harmonizers who in 1939 became the first Asian American act to have a revue on Broadway.

Now their trailblazing story is being told for the first time onstage in the musical "Blended 和 (Harmony)," which premieres Saturday at St. Paul's History Theatre in a co-production with Theater Mu.

"They were part of American entertainment history but never thought of it that way," Li said by phone from her home in New York. "It was always, 'Gotta get a gig, or Mama's not gonna be pleased, or where's our next meal coming from.'"

Li wrote about her mother and aunts in "Just Us Girls," a family history published in 2015. The e-book, which chronicles their history from sharing stages with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason to entertaining troops for the USO in Europe, came reluctantly.

When the sisters gathered for family events at Easter and Christmas, they would not speak of any of it. But they would occasionally break out into four-part harmony, Li remembers. And sometimes when her mother, Jenée, was waxing the kitchen floor, she would also tap dance.

"We [children] would go, what's going on here? And they would say, 'Oh, we were onstage at one time,'" Li recalled. "But they never said Broadway, and they never said that they were in 'George White's Scandals,' which ran for 20 years on Broadway."

Jenée spent 16 years singing with her sisters — from age 4 to 20 — before leaving to marry for love. Her groom was the son of the vice president of China.

A shared American story

Such history was deeply inspiring for the "Blended Harmony" creative team of playwright Jessica Huang, New York-based composer Jacinth Greywoode and director Lily Tung Crystal, artistic director of Mu. But they had a problem. How do you narrow down a story that's akin to colorizing a whole album of old black-and-white photos?

Well, go deep into the entertainment, the thing that brings smiles to faces. The musical fills in the gaps of history and brings new dimension to our understanding of the past, Huang said.

"There are so many things about this show that are right in the pocket of things I'm called to write about," she said. They include interracial marriage, immigrant families impacting American history and virtuosic Asian American artists.

While there are four sisters represented in the musical, the descendants of Alice did not care to have her story be part of this show. So there's a fictional Sophie, played by Suzie Juul, in the place where Alice would be. The other Kimmies share the real names of the sisters, with Kelsey Angel Baehrens playing Jenée, Morgan Kempton as Maggie and Audrey Mojica as Bubbles.

"This is an opportunity to uplift a very American story of marginalized women doing amazing things on the Great White Way, pun intended," Greywoode said.

The issues the Kimmies confronted nearly a century ago sound uncomfortably contemporary. Frankly put, they faced a lot of anti-Asian hate, Tung Crystal said.

That climate has a long history. The Page Act of 1875 prohibited forced laborers from Asia from entering the United States and effectively banned Chinese women as "immoral." Chinese men were banned in 1882 by the Chinese Exclusion Act.

But a natural disaster would be used to circumvent discriminatory immigration laws. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake ignited a fire that destroyed countless public birth records. Enterprising China-born men already in the U.S. would say that they were citizens and that they wanted to reunite with family members, with brokers often creating false documents to facilitate the process.

Gim, the son of itinerant cobblers born near what is now Guangzhou, China, was one of these "paper sons." He arrived by ship at age 9 to Vancouver, then moved to Seattle before making his way to Minnesota.

"He must have been in his early teens when he came to Minnesota and was hired as a dishwasher at the Nankin Café," Li said.

A (stage) dream comes true

Her grandmother came from the other side of the world — Poland. She was probably 12 years old but got a cheaper fare in steerage by saying she was 10, Li said. After landing at Ellis Island, she took a train to join her sister in Minneapolis.

In the old country, the women in Lena's family worked as seamstresses and dressmakers, and the men as bootmakers and musicians for minor aristocracy. Li imagines her grandmother watching a ball through a keyhole and feeling excluded.

"She vowed that one day that my children will be wearing my gowns, and they'll be dancing onstage for people to see," Li said. "Then she comes to America where she believed her dreams can come true."

Lena poured everything, including her own dreams, into her kids, making their dresses and costumes, and serving as their manager and chaperones. The more famous Andrews Sisters, to whom they often were compared, lived in the same Minneapolis neighborhood.

The temptation is to make a comparison, and to call the Kimmies the Asian Andrews Sisters but that's not quite right, Huang said. "They were talented in their own right."

Musically, the Kimmies went from early jazz to swing to the sounds of the 1950s, and that's the span that's represented in "Harmony."

Greywoode said that he was interested in using the touchstones from history to create sounds that we might hear today. And he has been mindful to not get into a pastiche of Orientalist clichés.

Because part of the story is about how Asian Americans were exoticized, Greywoode said, he "had to work to calibrate the sort of gross music at the time that became popular. We want to highlight the archetype but not continue to inflict harm now."

But all of these serious and historical concerns should not obscure a central fact of "Harmony," the creative team insisted.

"These women were full of jokes and spirit and light," Tung Crystal said. "There's a lot of joy here."

'Blended 和 (Harmony)'

Who: Story by Jessica Huang. Composed by Jacinth Greywoode. Directed by Lily Tung Crystal.

Where: History Theatre, 30 E. 10th St., St. Paul.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thu.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends May 26.

Tickets: $15-$74. 651-292-4323,