[BROADWAY] Star Rising - Telly Leung
- Star Rising: Telly Leung and Rent
AfterElton Site: http://www.afterelton.com/taxonomy/term/4736
Telly Leung Website: http://www.tellyonline.net/home.html
"Rent" on Film: http://warez-forever.com/53142-rent-filmed-live-broadway-2008-dvdrip.html
Telly Leung is seriousfuckinly the friendliest, awesomest, most super-fantastical person ever.
WHY I JUST USED THE WORD "SERIOUSFUCKINLY":
Seriousfuckinly is the best word in the world. Adam Pascal (genius that he is) invented it. Thank him.
by "x Rajah x"
Telly is a Founding Member of Jaradoa Theater
Our mission is to promote mercy, beauty, and truth through performance and service.
Jaradoa (Just A Roomful of Artists Doing Outreach And) Theater is a member-based company dedicated to compassionate action, authentic storytelling, collaboration, diversity, and play.
We seek to create great theater in an environment where artists thrive, and serve the community through performance-based outreach and partnerships with relief organizations.
It seems that not only are Asian-American males getting more play in television and movies these days, but also on Broadway too. Case in point is Telly Leung, a 27 year old actor who is playing the role of Angel in the hit musical Rent.
Some of the national shows that Telly has played in (including Rent):
RENT (Angel / Steve and Others)
WICKED - Chicago Shiz Co. (Boq)
PACIFIC OVERTURES (Boy, Oberserver, Sailor)
FLOWER DRUM SONG (Ensemble, Ta u/s
At the same time Telly is also working on a full length feature album for release on MoppTopp records.
Jaradoa Theater (Founding Member)
TELLY LEUNG (Founding Member, Actor) was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, and holds a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University. Broadway credits include the 2002 revival of Flower Drum Song, the 2005 Roundabout revival of Sondheim's Pacific Overtures, and Rent (Steve & Others, Angel). Telly originated the role of Boq in the Chicago company of Wicked. Other credits include Song in M. Butterfly (Philadelphia Theater Company), Barnaby in Hello, Dolly! (The Muny), Godspell (Paper Mill Playhouse), Simon in Jesus Christ Superstar (Sacramento Music Circus), Thuy in Miss Saigon (PCLO), Lun Tha in The King & I (NCT, with Lou Diamond Phillips), Toby in Sweeney Todd (Four Seasons Theater), Children of Eden (Fords Theater), and The Bernstein Mass at Carnegie Hall & Kennedy Center. He is featured in Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway (on DVD & Blue-Ray) as a member of the closing cast of Rent on Broadway. TV: "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." Recordings include Flower Drum Song (DRG records), Pacific Overtures (PS Classics), "Wall to Wall Sondheim Live From Symphony Space," Dear Edwina (PS Classics) and his own EP of original Pop/ R&B music, "Getaway," on Mopptopp Records.
Asian Americans on Broadway Feature on Telly Leung
TELLY LEUNG Broadway: RENT (Angel, Steve), FLOWER DRUM SONG (2002 revival), Sondheim's PACIFIC OVERTURES (2005 revival). He originated the role of Boq in the Chicago production of WICKED. Regional credits include: GODSPELL (Paper Mill Playhouse), Simon in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (Music Circus), Barnaby in HELLO DOLLY (The Muny), Thuy in MISS SAIGON (PCLO), Lun Tha in THE KING AND I starring Lou Diamond Phillips (NCT), Toby in SWEENEY TODD (FST), & Seth / Shem in CHILDREN OF EDEN (Fords Theater). Telly is featured on the original cast recordings of FLOWER DRUM SONG (DRG records), PACIFIC OVERTURES (PS Classics), and WALL TO WALL STEPHEN SONDHEIM (Symphony Space). He has also released an EP of original music on Mopptopp Records entitled, GETAWAY. On television, Telly was recently featured on the season six finale of LAW AND ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT. BFA Carnegie Mellon University.
TELLY LEUNG INTERVIEW
Describe your career
I think I'm one of the luckiest people in the world because I get to do what I love for a living: perform.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
The most common misconception about Broadway performers is that we only work three hours a day, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. However, we are constantly: a) in rehearsals for new cast members being put in the show b) in rehearsals for understudies c) auditioning for new projects d) in rehearsals for workshops and readings and e) staying on top of our game by going to voice/dance/acting classes. Our days get pretty packed.
A Broadway performer (especially a music theater performer) has to live a life of discipline in order to be in top form for the evening performance. We know how expensive a ticket to a Broadway show is (a whopping $110 is the top ticket!), so we make sure we are at our best and giving the audience their money's worth. The voice and body are the main tools of our trade, which means we have to sleep well, eat right, exercise, and not party all night long. I find the worst possible thing you can do the night before a show is be in a loud and smoky bar. The second hand smoke and the overuse of the vocal chords when speaking over the noise of the bar is killer on the voice.
We have to watch what we eat and drink, through the course of the day, to make sure it's not affecting the way we sing/dance. I, for one, cannot have spicy food or too much sugar before I sing. We wake up in the morning, and the first thing we do is check to see how tired we are vocally/physically from the night before. Doing eight shows a week takes a certain stamina that I had to learn to develop over time. and it's still something I'm figuring out how to do better and better. Some folks focus on hydration. Others like to steam. It takes a while to figure out one's personal daily routine that works for them.
As you can see, our day-to-day routine is all focused on how to give the best performance possible. Some say we live like nuns, and depending on how difficult your show is night after night, they might be right.
Most notable milestones
My Broadway debut was in "Flower Drum Song", and actually setting foot on the Broadway stage at the Virginia Theater for the first time was a moment that I will always remember.
When I did "Pacific Overtures," I got to fulfill the dream of every music theater actor and work with Stephen Sondheim. What an incredible opportunity, to be a) performing in one of his shows and b) to work so closely with him on the process.
As an Asian-American performer, I was so proud to be cast as Boq in the Chicago Company of "Wicked." At the time, I was the only Asian person to ever cast in the principle role in any company of that show. I have great respect for the casting directors, creative team, and producers of "Wicked" because they really wanted the world of their play, OZ, to reflect the diversity of the world. Why can't munchkins be Asian? Why can't the green witch be African-American? It is one of the few shows that is truly dedicated to non-traditional casting.
What's the niche?
No two actors will approach the role the same way. That is because it is our job to bring our own unique perspective to a role and no two performers are the same. As an Asian-American person, raised in traditional Chinese home in Brooklyn, New York, I am unique in my perspective and understanding of the world. That is what makes me unique as an actor. As I get older, life will continue teaching me lessons. It will expand my actors' vocabulary even more so as I continue on my journey as both a human being and a performer.
What's in store for the future?
It's one of the biggest challenges as an actor to adjust to the constant ups and downs of show biz. You never truly know what's in store for the future.
The life of an actor is in constant flux. We are often called "gypsies" because we go from one show to the next. Today, you might be on Broadway. Then your show closes, and you're on the unemployment line, searching for another project to attach yourself to. Actors often go where the work is. Life on the road might mean a new city a new change of scene every couple of weeks. It's a lifestyle that is constantly in motion. So who knows what's in store for the future?
This might sound terrible to some, especially those who like the stability of a "9 to 5" schedule (and paycheck). I must admit, there are times I envy those with that kind of job/financial stability. Yet being in this profession has truly taught me how to enjoy each moment in the present, to not worry too much about "yesterday" and "tomorrow," but to live and savor "today." The musical motif in "Rent" that echoes through the course of the show is: "No Day But Today." There is a profound truth in that. I've also been very lucky. But, I believe that luck is preparedness meeting opportunity and I have faith that if I keep working at it, and being prepared for the opportunities that arise, I'll be able to work constantly and have a full and prosperous career.
What is most rewarding about acting on Broadway?
I get to live out a life-long dream, and I get to work at home in New York. Actors so often have to go where the work is and do "gigs on the road" that I always find being in a Broadway show, and working in my hometown, a blessing.
Do you prefer acting in a Broadway production or in a smaller production?
I enjoy working on Broadway, but there I also love working regionally. There are some amazing theaters all across the country doing some daring, quality work on stage, and I love being a part of that. Though I've said being on the road is tough, it also gives me the rewarding opportunity of seeing places all over the US that I normally wouldn't visit. Who knew that Madison, Wisconsin was such a great little town? I would've never visited North Carolina had it not been for work and I had a fantastic time there.
What is your most memorable experience in acting?
The most memorable experience I've had so far in acting was being involved in "Pacific Overtures" on Broadway. It has always been a dream of mine to be in a Sondheim show, and getting to share the stage with an All-Asian cast of stellar Broadway performers eight times a week, being directed by our amazing director from Japan: Amon Miyamoto, the first Asian person to ever direct a musical on Broadway, was a major career highlight. I've never been prouder to be an Asian performer on Broadway.
Do you prefer acting or music?
I don't have a preference. They exercise different parts of my creativity, and at the same time, one art form feeds the other. The music inspires my work in theater and vice versa. They are just different outlets of being creative.
Was it hard to master the skill of being able to act, sing, and dance, in order to be on Broadway?
I went to Carnegie Mellon University for my training and it was the hardest thing I've ever done. It's a competitive, selective, grueling, four-year, conservatory program with an all-day long regimen of acting, singing, ballet/jazz/tap, movement, voice and speech, accents and dialects, theater history, etc. However, I felt incredibly prepared after my four tough years there. The training I received is something that I still use heavily in my everyday work as a professional actor.
I am a true believer in being a student for life. I still take classes, voice lessons, acting classes, dance classes, etc. in New York.
Goal yet to be achieved
Like every Broadway actor, I've dreamed of winning a Tony Award. It would be an honor just to be nominated. No, really! I'm not just saying it. Oh well, I'll just keep plugging along and dreaming. Maybe one day, the right project will come along and it'll come true.
Best practical advice
Keep studying. This applies to every profession, really. But, it is particularly relevant to those who want a career in the arts. "Studying" might not be formal class. For actors, it might be people watching on the subway and doing a character study. For musicians, it might be a concert at Carnegie Hall or a live band at CBGB's. For artists, it might be gallery openings, or sketching the homeless man on the street. Live and breathe the art that is in the world around you, and keep studying it.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
My family has not always been supportive of my career in show business. I have immigrant parents who came to this country to give their child a better life in America. Like most immigrant parents, they have dreams of their children going to Ivy League schools and having the financial/professional stability of being a doctor, or a lawyer, or an engineer.
My parents and I have a great relationship. I think part of that relationship is learning from one another. The "better life" they dreamed of for me was limited to financial stability, but "better life" in my eyes is also the freedom and opportunity to pursue one's innermost dreams. Isn't "freedom" and "opportunity" what America is all about? I think I opened my parents' eyes to the fact that you can achieve both in this country, being in a profession you love and also making a living doing it.
Now my parents are happy for my success (and relieved that being an actor doesn't mean starving for one's art). Of course, I am happy that they are happy, but also satisfied knowing that my success has been defined on my own terms.
Thommie Walsh. He was an original cast member of "A Chorus Line," and a two time Tony Award winner in Choreography. He was one of the first choreographers I've ever worked for, and he pushed me to always be better than I thought I could be. He recently passed away, but his effect on me as an artist and a performer will live on eternally.
Mr. Vincent Grasso, my high school drama teacher. He taught me to love the theater and to love being part of the "family." Every person in the family is important: from the star of the show to the person that sweeps the stage at the end of the night. It's a valuable lesson that I still carry with me today: that every person is integral to the show.
What motivated you to get started?
I went to a math and science high school in NY, Stuyvesant High School. It was a grueling, competitive environment academically, and I started getting involved in the high school musical to relieve stress and take a break fro physics and calculus.
Like best about what you do?
When I was a teenager growing up in NY, Broadway was right in my back yard, and I remember going to the TKTS booth or getting student rush tickets for almost every show on Broadway. It inspired me to do what I do today.
Shows like "Wicked" and "Rent" have a large audience of young people. Being involved in both of these huge theatrical phenomenons has, no doubt, inspired the next generation of theater artists. It thrills me to know that I might have a little something to do with that.
Like least about what you do?
The nature of what we do as Broadway performers is that shows open and close. There is nothing more heart breaking (and scary) than that company meeting where the producers notify you of the show's closing date. All that blood, sweat and tears that went into the show will disappear (except for the memories of those involved and those who got to see it), and as an actor, I am once again on the hunt for a new project to go to. The pressure is on and the clock is ticking. But, I've learned that something always comes up. As an actor, you have to have faith that if you keep doing what you do, your good work will be recognized and someone will want to use your talents.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I wanted to make my parents proud, which meant going to an Ivy League school and being a doctor or a lawyer. Ah well.
What was your first job?
I did promotional work for the WB 11. I was part of their "Mickey Mouse" club called The Team 11. We did short commercials, promoting shows on the WB. It was the first time I got a pay check for doing what I love to do.
Biggest pastime outside of work
It's kind of work related, but I enjoy going to the theater as an audience member.
Person most interested in meeting?
I recently did "Hello, Dolly" at the MUNY in St. Louis, and it was directed by Lee Roy Reams, who directed the most-recent Broadway revival starring Carol Channing. We heard some fantastic stories about her and I would love to meet her. She is a living theater legend and I'd love to have dinner with her and have her share her stories with me.
Leader in business most interested in meeting?
Hal Prince. He is the legendary director of some of my favorite shows ("Sweeney Todd," "Pacific Overtures," "Show Boat," "Evita") and also an accomplished producer. I feel like no one knows this business better, and I'd love to pick his brain.
Three interesting facts about yourself
I can only think of one now, so...
My parents named me after Telly Savalas, the popular star of the hit 70's series, "Kojak." My parents came to this country in 1975, and watched a lot of TV in an effort to learn English. They like the name Telly. I'm glad they didn't name me Kojak!
Three characteristics that describe you
I hate questions like this because I never know how to answer these without being a braggart or too modest. So I'm just gonna skip it.
Three greatest passions
Food: I love to eat and I love to cook!
Besides being a huge Harry Potter fan, my favorite book (right now), is "Everything Was Possible," Ted Chapin's memoir from when he was a young intern on the original Broadway production of "Follies." He is now the head of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization.
As a part of the Broadway community, I am an active supporter of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Favorite Broadway production
It's too hard to choose one, but if I had to, I would say "Rent." I am almost scared to admit how many times I've seen the show (probably over 20), so you can imagine what an amazing experience it is to actually be in the production.
Many singers inspire me, including Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, Billy Porter, Betty Buckley, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Adam Pascal, and Jill Scott (just to name a few!).
Telly Leung: From 'Rent' to 'M.Butterfly'
by Padraic Maroney
Having read the play M. Butterfly while in still attending college at Carnegie Mellon, Telly Leung was introduced to the work of David Henry Hwang. He didn't know it at the time, but Hwang's work would weave itself throughout his career.
Leung, a native of New York, is in Philadelphia for the five week run of "M. Butterfly." Philadelphia Theatre Company is presenting the show, celebrating its twentieth anniversary, which is based on the true story of the love affair between a French diplomat and a Chinese spy named Song. When he first read the play, as part of his required reading in school, Leung was instantly taken by the material.
"It gave me inspiration and hope," Leung said about the play, which won multiple Tony awards - including one for Hwang - during its Broadway.
"Butterfly" tackles a handful of heavy issues during the course of the play. Leung is amazed at how relevant and timeless the piece still is after all these years, mostly in part to the topics it covers. The show deals with gender, sexuality and racial issues.
"For me, I love it when theater deals [with real-life issues] and I leave to have a meal or drink and am still talking about it," Leung explained. "I find myself still doing that with this piece. If it's doing that for me and I'm involved, I'm sure it's doing the same for the audience."
The structure of the play is done in short, quick scenes as the main character recalls them. That was one of the things the actor liked about the play when he first read it in school.
"I also thought it was so tight. It moved so quickly," Leung recalls from his first impression of the material.
For an actor, the quick pace of the play can be both a blessing and a curse. Leung finds it fun to keep up with the pace of the show, but admits that it is challenging as well.
"You dive right in. There's no rearing back to jump in," Leung described.
Before getting the part of Song, the traitorous Chinese spy masquerading as a female, Leung started his career out in another Hwang production. His first production after graduating from Carnegie Mellon was in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Flower Drum Song," which Hwang rewrote the book for.
When it came from preparing for the role of Song, it was from friend - and the originator of the role on Broadway - B.D. Wong who gave the best advice to him.
"He told me to treat them as two separate people. The audience will go along with it," said the actor who had never seen a performance of play. "It was really good advice to be two completely different people."
Even when looking at Song as two separate characters, Leung doesn't have much in common with either persona. Leung says it's scary as an actor to go there. The "two" Songs are completely different from one another. With female Song is submissive and male Song being blunt, Leung had fun playing both of the personas of his character.
"It's fun and unique, not what I do everyday. Imagine being trapped in a submissive woman for 20 years. She's warm, submissive, charming and fun. He is one of the people who tell it like it is. Some people think he is not likeable because he speaks truthfully. There's great joy and freedom in that," Leung said explaining the difference between the characters. With a laugh, the fast talking actor adds, "I have much more tact, but it's fun to be tactless."
To get ready for the feminine requirements of the role, Joe Calarco, the director of the show told Leung to obsessive women and what our American perception of the perfect woman tends to be like. One of the suggestions Calarco gave Leung to watch was Elizabeth Taylor in "A Place in the Sun."
The Brooklyn native is only in town for the run of the play, which has extended its run through February 24. Before he got the part in "Butterfly" Leung has been making a living performing in another socially conscious show - "Rent." While he performs in Philadelphia, the actor is on temporary leave from the musical. He will, however, be returning to Broadway in February after Butterfly closes to finish out the run of "Rent" through June.
When he originally talked to the producers of "Rent," Leung said that they were completely accommodating to work with his "Butterfly" schedule for the limited run. In fact, if you go see Butterfly on a Wednesday night (the night "Rent" dark on Broadway) look through the audience and you might just see some of his "Rent" cast mates sitting there along with you.
"A lot are coming to see me. I've been a frequent visitor buying tickets for them," Leung explained. "It's like a true family over there."
Having worked on "Rent," Leung is now learning to adopt the musical's motto: "No day but today." He is using that as a way of stopping to enjoy the present. The readily employed actor said that previously he has been working to prove himself.
Going to a competitive math and science high school, and being met with a disapproving attitude from his parents, Leung felt the need to constantly prove himself.
"Their discouragement comes from love and fear of me not going to get the American dream," Leung said of his parents who immigrated to the United States from China.
Now that he has been steadily employed for years, he doesn't feel the pressure as much. He is not one who feels lucky about the way things have turned out. Rather he believes in something much more serendipitous.
"I don't believe in luck. I think it is preparation meets opportunity," Leung explained.
Whether luck has anything to do with it or not, Leung has enjoyed quite the career trajectory that isn't showing any signs of slowing down in the near future - even if he isn't out to prove himself.
Telly Leung And Christopher Innvar Star in David Henry Hwang's M. BUTTERFLY at the Philadelphia Theatre Company
by Lia Chang
Leung (Song) and Christopher Innvar (Gallimard) star in the Philadelphia Theatre Company's production of M. BUTTERFLY, Tony-award winning playwright David Henry Hwang's play based on the strange but true story of a French diplomat who carried on a 20-year affair with a Chinese opera singer, not realizing that his "butterfly" was in fact a man masquerading as a woman. It is a provocative and captivating story of lust, politics and betrayal, in which Hwang weaves parallels with Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly, and explores the stereotypes that underlie and distort relations between Eastern and Western culture, and between men and women.
Song Liling is a dream role for Leung, who made his Broadway debut in the revival of FLOWER DRUM SONG and then appeared in the revival of Stephen Sondheim's PACIFIC OVERTURES. He spent a year playing Boq in the Chicago production of WICKED, and his other theatrical credits include RENT; ZANNA, DON'T;THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE; THE KING AND I; JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR; CHILDREN OF EDEN; SWEENEY TODD; and GODSPELL. Leung can be heard on the "Wall to Wall Stephen Sondheim" recording, and his debut EP is titled "Getaway." The actor is also a co-founder of the fledgling Jaradoa Theatre Company. Leung will be on leave from RENT through Feb. 24.
The supporting cast of M. BUTTERFLY features Jared Michael Delaney, Doan Ly, Anne Marie Nest, Larry Petersen, and Susan Wilder and is directed by Joe Calarco.
"Behind the Scenes of RENT"
Title/Role: Steve & Others, Angel (u/s)
How long have you been working on RENT?
Since Nov. 2006
Tell us a little about your job. What does it mean to be a ____?
I love my job! I first saw the show when it first opened, in '96, with the original castand at 16, I was so moved. It inspired me to pursue theatre myselfso me, being in Rent now is like my 16 year old dream come true! Having a blast!!
Describe your typical day.
The common misconception is that actors only work three hours a day, at the show. But, Broadway actors have to live a pretty disciplined life.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I love singing the "Will I" solo and being a part of the opening number, "Rent." I also love singing "Seasons" cuz there's a connection with the audience Really I love all the moments where the whole cast, as a company, gets to perform together.
When did you first become interested in a career in this field?
I started doing theatre in high school, at Stuyvesant H.S. in NYC. In fact, Kelly Karbacz (a recent Maureen) and I did theatre together Growing up in NY and getting to see a Broadway show whenever, was so inspiring.
Tell us a little about your career up to this point. How did you get where you are now?
I went to Carnegie Mellon University and got my BFA in theatre. I was lucky enough to be a part of B'way show right out of school (Flower Drum Song). Then I did Pacific Overtures (Roundabout) and originated the role of Boq in Wicked.
What advice would you have for someone seeking a career in your field?
Never stop training and working at your craft and whenever you get nervous at an audition, just know that no one wants you to fail. Every casting director and director wants you to come in the room and shineso just relax, and show your stuff!!
What is your favorite scene/song in RENT?
I'm not in it, but I love "Another Day." Love hearing Mimi singing the chorus. "Forget regret, or life is yours to miss."
Had you seen RENT before you started working on the show? If so, how many times?
I am a big fan of the show I've seen it so many times I must've seen that original company 7 or 8 times!
Telly Leung made his Broadway bow in Flower Drum Song, going on to appear in Rent and Pacific Overtures. Most recently, he was seen and heard in one of the most talked-about musical theater events of 2008: the staged concert performance of Leonard Bernstein's Mass at Carnegie Hall.
Telly Leung, Jodi Long, and More to Perform in 50th Anniversary Celebration of Flower Drum Song
By: Dan Bacalzo
Jenn Aedo, Rich Cerrulo, Telly Leung, Jodi Long, Blythe Matsui, Mark Oka, Erin Quill, Yuka Takara, Lainie Takakura and Robert Tatad will perform in a 50th anniversary celebration of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song, to be held at the David Henry Hwang Theatre of East West Players, on February 2 at 7 pm.
The musical's original Broadway star Pat Suzuki, the film version's stars Nancy Kwan and James Shigeta, and the book writer for the revised version of the musicalDavid Henry Hwang, will serve as honorary chairs for the event, which is being put together by Alvin Ing, a Broadway cast member of both the original and revival productions.
The program will include performances of the major songs from the musical including "I Enjoy Being a Girl," "Grant Avenue," "Love Look Away," "Sunday," "Fan Tan Fanny," and "Gliding Through My Memoree."
Tickets are $50, which includes a banquet following at Plum Tree Inn. For more information, email aling89@....
Young Broadway Performer Telly Leung
As a high school student, Telly Leung got involved in his high school's musical as a way to take a break from his physics and calculus classes. Telly never quite returned from that break, however: Today he's a professional performer, currently in the Broadway cast of "Rent." He has a packed life that is constantly in motion, with rehearsals, auditions, and performances - it's anything but a conventional 9-to-5 job. Despite the instability of going from one show to the next whenever one ends, and despite the "gypsy" lifestyle of often being on the road to go where the work is, Telly, 27, says he thinks he's one of the luckiest people on Earth because he gets to do what he loves for a living. To learn more about Telly and what it's like to be an Asian-American performer, check out this week's Young & Professional Profile.
TELLY LEUNG TO PERFORM AT SPLASH FEBRUARY 23
Monday, Feb 23rd, 11:30pm - "Scott Nevins' Curtain Call" with Broadway's Telly Leung @ Splash
Splash Bar is proud to present a very special edition of Scott Nevins' Curtain Call with Broadway's TELLY LEUNG (Wicked, RENT, Pacific Overtures and Flower Drum Song). Telly is currently on the National Tour of RENT but will be in town for one night only, and directly following the video madness of "Musical Mondays" he will serve up a full set of Broadway's hottest tunes - Live! Get there early to grab a seat to watch those legendary musical numbers on the screens, and then sit tight as Telly Leung performs live in person! Admission is free until 10pm, $5 after. Must be 21 w/ id. Splash - 50 West 17th St (b/w 5th and 6th).
Q&A with Telly Leung
Currently starring as Boq in the Chicago production of Wicked, Telly's Broadway credits include Flower Drum Song, and Pacific Overtures (on which he also appears on the cast recording). Outside of New York, he's appeared as Simon in Jesus Christ Superstar (Music Circus), Thuy in Miss Saigon (PCLO), Lun Tha in The King and I (starring Lou Diamond Phillips), and Dolph in But, I'm a Cheerleader!
You're the first non-Caucasian to play the role of Boq. Do you think color blind casting is more prevalent on Broadway, or are there still barriers?
First off, let me take this opportunity to applaud the creative team and producers of Wicked for being at the forefront of non-traditional casting. Because of the fantastic nature of the show (who says that everyone in Oz is Caucasian?), Wicked has always been a show that has always cast non-traditionally and included many minority actors in their companies. Derrick Williams is an African-American Fiyero. Aaron Albano (who is Filipino) is a Boq understudy on the tour. Both the standby and the understudy for Elphaba on Broadway right now are African-American. And now, I am cast as the first Asian-American Boq. It is my hope that other Broadway shows will follow in Wicked's shoes that every actor regardless of race is seriously considered in the casting process.
I try to stay optimistic with regards to the future of non-traditional casting on Broadway, but there is a double standard that exists for Asian roles in music theatre. It is perfectly acceptable for an actress like Juanita Hall or Lillias White to play Bloody Mary in South Pacific, or for Jonathan Pryce to play the Engineer in Miss Saigon. However, an Asian actor like myself would never be considered for a role in Dreamgirls or Fiddler on the Roof. Shows like King and I, Hairspray, and Showboat deal with issues of race and should be cast race-specifically. Yet, this double standard exists that takes Asian roles away from Asian actors.
What was it that first got you interested in musical theater?
I started doing theatre when I was attending Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, a specialized high school for math and science. Theatre was an escape from the long days of chemistry and calculus. I had a great teacher there named Vincent Grasso (we all called him Mr. G) who taught me the most valuable lesson of all in theatre collaboration. He would always say, "Whether you are the star, or the guy sweeping the stage, you are a valuable part of the show." That lesson has stuck with me always and it allows me to truly love and respect what my colleagues and I do no matter how large or small the role.
How many times have you seen "Wicked" as an audience member?
I've seen WICKED 4 times. I was in attendance on opening night on Broadway (I had very good friends and colleagues who were part of the original company on and off-stage). I saw it once again in NY when my good friend from the FLOWER DRUM SONG tour (Kenway Kua) replaced another FLOWER DRUM SONG alumni (Marcus Choi). I saw the show a third time this last May as a Wicked employee to observe the show and to see Shoshana Bean's and Megan Hilty's performances (the former of whom I am a huge fan and the latter of whom I went to school with at Carnegie Mellon). I saw Wicked a fourth time in Chicago to observe the national touring cast. Each time I saw the show as an audience member, I had a blast!
Were you a fan of the Wizard of Oz growing up?
Like every kid, I, too, fell in love with the Wizard of Oz. I never thought I'd get to actually BE in Oz eight times a week. It's like a childhood fantasy come true!
After seeing someone else perform the role of Boq, what steps have you taken to make sure the role is unique to you, yet kept true to the original character?
From day one of rehearsals, Joe Mantello encouraged all of us to find our own way of telling the story. He did not want us to be carbon copies of what others have done with our roles. As a result, the company as a whole has found OUR way of making every moment our own within the framework of such a technical piece. Because it is a brand new cast of players and we are all working so closely together to find our own way of playing with each other on stage, I truly believe that this production of Wicked is very much unique without sacrificing the truthful intentions of each character. As we learn from Elphaba in Wicked, there is more than one way of telling the story.
How are the audiences reacting to this company?
The city of Chicago has welcomed this sit-down production with open arms. The fans line up at the stage door to meet us after the show and tell us how much they've enjoyed it. Neighboring department stores, like Marshall Fields, have Wicked window displays. The Borders bookstore next door has special displays with the Gregory Maguire book and posters from the musical. There are cabs, busses, and phone booths all over the city with Wicked ads and there is a huge buzz about the show all over town. In some ways, because the Wizard of Oz was written in Chicago, it's as if Wicked has come full-circle and returned home.
People that have seen the show before, including the creators Winnie Holzman and Stephen Schwartz, have expressed how well our cast is telling the story of "Wicked." This company is a true ensemble and from day one of rehearsals, we wanted to stay true to the emotional intentions of what Stephen and Winnie have written. I believe that the people of Chicago will see a very clear, clean, and crisp production of the show.
The tour was in Chicago for four weeks, and now all of a sudden there is a brand new cast (including many local Chicago actors). Are you getting repeat customers who had seen the tour and have come back to see your company?
This show is a phenomenon and has an enormous fan base. The show appeals to people age eight to eighty just like the Wizard of Oz does, and there is something for everyone. It would not surprise me if people come see the show and say, "I want to come back and bring my husband / wife / boyfriend / mother / grandfather / best friend / etc. to see the show." The Chicago actors who are involved are also from the rich and thriving local theatre scene in town. They bring with them a local familiarity and fan base as well. Plus, wait till you see Ana Gasteyer in the starring role of Elphaba! It is a performance not to be missed. She is stunning in the role.
Your website mentions that a full length CD of original songs is going to be available this summer. We've heard some of the music that's on the website which is quite different than what a Broadway audience may be used to. Tell us a bit about your inspirations for the music side of your career.
Writing your own songs and singing your own music is a completely fulfilling experience. My first love was NOT music theatre. As a kid in Brooklyn, I grew up listening to pop / hip-hop / r&b / raggae. My first voice teachers were artists like Stevie Wonder, the late Luther Vandross (a huge vocal idol of mine), Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, and Whitney Houston. My writing partner, Randy Witherspoon, was my dresser in FLOWER DRUM SONG on Broadway. He has his own studio (MOPPTOPP STUDIOS) and he was the one that took me under his wing and taught me about the music industry. He believed in my talent, loved my voice, and encouraged me to write my own songs and develop my own style as a recording artist. One thing led to another and we are going to independently release a full-length album of our music under the MOPPTOPP label. We are very proud of our project, and we hope the people out there dig our music. Check out www.mopptopprecords.com for the 411!
At 25 you have quite the resume already with two Broadway credits under your belt. You're working with one famous Stephen right now (Schwartz) but you've spent quite a bit of time working with another (Sondheim). How involved was Sondheim in the rehearsal process of "Pacific Overtures"?
My first association with Stephen Schwartz was actually at Carnegie Mellon, my alma mater. Stephen is also CMU alum and he would often come to do master classes with the undergrads there. He was a great teacher, and was extremely supportive. He continues to be someone who encourages and inspires me to be a better artist.
Being in a Sondheim show on Broadway was a dream come-true, and working with a living legend first hand like Stephen will surely prove to be a shining highlight of my career. Stephen Sondheim was extremely involved in the process for Pacific Overtures. He (and John Weidman) were responsible for bringing Amon Miyamoto's staging of the production in Japan to America. Sondheim and Weidman would attend rehearsals often and were almost always present during tech and previews at Studio 54. Both men continued to give helpful notes to Amon and the actors and even make changes to the book and score. After the show opened, both men have been quoted saying that it was the most satisfying version of Pacific Overture they've ever seen. They loved the production and would often come back to visit after the show opened sometimes with pages of constructive notes and sometimes, just to say 'hello.' Pacific Overtures was a labor of love for all involved and I am very proud to have been a part of it.
Most of all, I am proud to be a Sondheim alum. I performed in two all-star events for Sondheim's 75th Birthday (Wall to Wall Sondheim, Children and Art) and sharing a stage with those actors that I've looked up to all my life (Elaine Stritch, Angela Lansbury, Harvey Evans, Sab Shimono, George Hearn, Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley, Alvin Ing) and knowing that we've all shared the common experience of working with the genius of Sondheim made me feel like I was, in some small way, the newest member of Broadway's most exclusive club.
What are 5 things people don't know about Telly Leung?
(1) I love Jelly-Belly beans and hate melted ice-cream.
(2) I am bi-lingual. At home, I speak Chinese (Cantonese) to my parents.
(3) I love acting, but someday, I hope to either produce or have my own theatre company.
(4) I like to cook.
(5) Boq is not that far from who I am. I am a big dorky goober. A SWEET dork with a lot of heart, but a dorky goober nonetheless.
Telly Leung wall be singing Leonard Bernstein's Mass with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Baltimore, at Carnegie Hall in NYC, and at the Kennedy Center.
Telly Leung was featured on the studio cast recording of Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich's Dear Edwina. Natalie Weiss was also a part of this recording project. http://www.playbill.com/news/article/121676.html
Telly Leung will be in his fourth Broadway show, Godspell, beginning in September. http://www.playbill.com/news/article/119688.html
Wall to Wall Stephen Sondheim
A Post-show Report
By Alan Gomberg
It can't be easy to program a 12-hour concert consisting mostly of songs by one composer-lyricist and manage to schedule the emotional climax for the last three songs, so kudos must go to whoever was responsible for managing this trick at the Wall to Wall Sondheim concert, given at Symphony Space on Manhattan's Upper West Side on Saturday, March 19. (I'm guessing that this was probably due to the combined efforts of Symphony Space artistic director Isaiah Sheffer and his co-producers for the event, Joel Fram and Maren Berthelsen, undoubtedly with input from Paul Gemignani, conductor for the portion accompanied by orchestra, and Sondheim himself.)
This was all the more remarkable given that the concert had offered a number of excellent performances during the preceding 11 and 1/2 hours.
First of the final three was "Someone in a Tree," featuring Evan D'Angeles, Alvin Ing, Telly Leung and B.D. Wong, the cast members who had performed it in the recent, rather indifferent Roundabout production of Pacific Overtures. Outside the production, the performances seemed much stronger (and perhaps they were), and the emotional content of the song - one of Sondheim's favorites of his own work - has rarely been delivered as powerfully.
This was followed by Barbara Cook's "In Buddy's Eyes," another known quantity, or so I thought in advance. I have seen her perform it a number of times, and it's always been a lovely performance, but one that I felt was a bit lacking in the despair that underlies the song. For whatever reason, the great Ms. Cook seemed to find that quality on Saturday in a way that I don't recall her doing before. How remarkable for a performer who has been singing a song for 20 years to still find new depths in it.
Then the Juilliard Choral Union brought the concert to a close with Jason Robert Brown's arrangement of "Sunday," that paean to the transcendent qualities of art, and this was enough to leave any Sondheim lover with tears streaming down his face.
Of the performances during the preceding 11 and 1/2 hours, I would have to write a great deal to give credit to everyone who did justice to the richness of the material with which they were entrusted on this special occasion. Perhaps it isn't surprising that there were so many excellent performances, given that Sondheim provides good singing actors with such tremendous opportunities to demonstrate their skill. But I do want to mention just a few.
Not having seen the original production of Assassins made the appearances of original-cast members Patrick Cassidy and Annie Golden singing material from the show especially fascinating for me. Both performers have stated in interviews that they never felt secure that they were giving good performances in the original production, but both delivered powerful and authoritative performances at Wall to Wall. Mr. Cassidy gave us a Balladeer who seemed more idealistic and less cynical and detached, one who seemed to have a much greater personal stake in the issues at hand, than other performers I've seen in the role. And Ms. Golden seemed completely at one with Squeaky Fromme when singing "Unworthy of Your Love" (in which she was paired with the excellent Alexander Gemignani from the Roundabout production), with the song's distressing sentiments pouring forth in the most direct way possible. Watching Ms. Golden, I could only think, "Other people may do this well, but she owns this song, it's hers."
Similarly, I had never seen George Lee Andrews sing "Silly People," since it was cut from A Little Night Music before the show opened on Broadway. While they were probably right to cut the song, the riveting performance of Mr. Andrews made it clear that he must have performed it very well indeed during the show's tryout in Boston.
Ms. Cook was not the only performer to find new things in a song that she has been singing for years. Elaine Stritch, who has performing "The Ladies Who Lunch" for 35 years now, delivered a jolt with a performance that seemed completely spontaneous, as if she were rediscovering the song after not having performed it for many years.
And, of course, the appearance of Angela Lansbury and George Hearn, delivering a slightly truncated performance of "A Little Priest," was thrilling.
Inevitably, the concert was a somewhat uneven affair - there were some performances in which the lack of rehearsal time seemed all too clear; not all of the performers were of the first rank, and a few major performers were not at their best. But with so much to be grateful for, how can we complain?
Of the many other excellent performances, I do want to mention two that particularly stood out for me.
Telly Leung and Eric Jordan Young delivered a performance of "Poems" from Pacific Overtures that had a thrillingly disciplined and original sense of characterization and interaction. This was one of those rare performances of a song you've seen performed many times that makes it entirely fresh, fascinating, and thrilling.
And Sheldon Harnick, singing with Michael Arden, delivered a heartfelt performance of "Free" that was lovely indeed.
I should also mention Michael Cerveris (who delivered a particularly touching "Anyone Can Whistle," pinch-hitting for another performer who had to cancel) and Kate Baldwin, who were there for much of the day giving performance after performance, both in solos and group numbers.
Several pianists - Rob Berman, Sam Davis, Chris Fenwick, Lanny Meyers, and Josh Rosenblum - shared the bulk of the accompaniment duties, and they were superb. Fenwick's crystalline playing of the solo interludes in "A Bowler Hat" (sung by Telly Leung) produced a stunning effect.
All in all, it was a great day
SOME THINGS ABOUT ME AND RENT:
Well, I'm x Rajah x, and thanks for visiting my profile! I'm one of those people who believes that RENT opens doors for people and changes them and all of that jazz, so I can be very sentimental about my RENT experiences, which have thus far been ah-freaking-mazing. Anyway, I hope you like my stories and stuff. :)
TIMES SEEN RENT ON STAGE:
Three. Once on Broadway, twice on tour. I guess four, if you count the filmed last show on Broadway which was (surprisingly) almost like seeing a show on stage.
A REALLY RANDOM RENT EXPERIENCE OF MINE:
The RENT cast stayed in the same hotel as us when we went to see them in Cleveland in January of 2009. We kept seeing them and running into them in different places. It was so awesome!
AN OMG MOMENT OF RENTHEADEDNESS:
I have met both Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp and I hold the memory of doing so so very dear to my heart. They are both very kind and I got to actually talk to them: Anthony for about five minutes and Adam for a bit longer, seeing as he seems to like to dawdle. :D I have two pairs of plaid pants, and I was wearing one of them when I met Adam, so clearly, if he liked them, they must be some damn good plaid pants. Oh, and Adam hugged us. Meaning me and my cousin. Like wrapped an arm around each of us. I melted a little. No, a lot. Yeah, after seeing RENT on Broadway, my cousin Sarah and I got this wicked backstage tour and it was seriously the best thing ever and it led to the whole thing that happened above , plus playbills signed by the whole company and I can't believe it but I got to walk on the Nederlander's stage mere minutes after it all went down. All of that stuff seems like a dream to me sometimes.
MY EXPERIENCE SEEING ADAM PASCAL IN CONCERT:
Gah... he sounded so amazing, naturally. And he was hilarious, he kept cracking jokes. :D Just a great night full of good music. Plus, we got seats in the fourth row! AAAH!
MY FAVORITE RENT CHARACTER:
Roger is clearly the most awesome RENT character, even though I love them all and Angel barely counts since everyone loves Angel and anyone who doesn't deserves to get their teeth kicked in.
THE STORY ABOUT ME AND PLAID:
I write lots of random oneshots about Roger and his plaid pants, because I'm cool like that? Haha, in all seriousness, I wear plaid WAAAY too much, but I love it. Roger has had a huge impact on my personal fashion sense.
WHAT I LIKE TO WRITE:
I love to write random RENT crackfics, and RENT humor stories too. Those are my faves. I write serious stuff though. And I only read and write canon stories. I'm a purist, I guess you could say. ROGER/MIMI is my favorite pairing, followed closely by COLLINS/ANGEL.
WHY I'M A STRICT ADVOCATE FOR CANON:
If JLar wrote it that way, I say... leave it the fuck alone.
RENT ACTORS THAT ARE SPECIAL TO ME:
The actors in the stage shows I've seen have been phenomenal and worthy of recognition. Here's my favorites, A.K.A. I remember their names without searching my playbills, because I loved them so much. And I only mention Adam and Anthony because they're so super cool, obviously it's a big DUH that they are special in their respective roles to me. Oh, and they are in order by my favorite portrayals.
WHY I GAVE SQUEEGEE MAN A SEPARATE SECTION ABOVE:
Telly Leung is seriousfuckinly the friendliest, awesomest, most super-fantastical person ever.
WHY I JUST USED THE WORD "SERIOUSFUCKINLY":
Seriousfuckinly is the best word in the world. Adam Pascal (genius that he is) invented it. Thank him.
HOW I EXPRESS MY RENTHEAD PRIDE:
I have dressed up as Roger and gone to school as such before. And forced everyone to call me Roger, including teachers. Ah, good times. By the way, one of my friends did the same thing but dressed as Collins. :D Haha. And I have, more than once, danced on a picnic table in our school courtyard and sang La Vie Boheme.
MY PENNAME AND WHY IT IS WHAT IT IS:
I work at a shelter for stray, injured, and sick cats. My penname, x Rajah x, comes from a kitty there named Roger whom I love dearly. Roger is known mostly as Rajah, because whenever we talk about him we call him "RAAAAJJAAAH". This is mostly because we have another cat named Roger in the shelter, and we need to distinguish between the two. But it's also because it's fun. I call him Raj, RajPants, and Raj-Man. I named him after Roger from RENT because he's really quiet and sweet, and he has a red plaid bed with a blanket that has musical notes on it. And yes, I sing OSG to him lots. :) Anyway, Raj is not adoptable from the shelter, because he is very scared of people and get sad a lot. He was abused or something as a small kitten and so he has understandable trouble trusting humans. :( It has taken months of me working with him to get him to let me touch him and even now he sometimes bristles his fur when I pet him. He's awesome though, and he had a girlfriend kitty that I named Mimi awhile ago until she was adopted into a loving home.
MY THOUGHTS ON SLASH:
I really hate slashfics, especially MarkRoger. (They're BFFs, I mean gosh!)
ABOUT CONTACTING ME:
I like talking to RENTheads. PM me anytime. :D
MY CURRENT OUTLOOK ON RENT'S STATUS OFF-BROADWAY:
When there's a RENT revival on Broadway, I'm so there.
SOMETHING RANDOM TO EXPRESS MY DEVOTION TO RENT:
I'm determined to incorporate "I'll Cover You" into my wedding somehow when I get married.
THEATER AND ME AT THE MOMENT:
I am in a production of the musical Bye, Bye, Birdie! at my school and I play the role of the Sad Little Girl. :)My other musical loves include (in no particular order): Chess; Wicked; Spring Awakening; tick, tick... BOOM!; Cabaret; Sweeney Todd; The Music Man; Across the Universe; West Side Story; The Wild Party; Aida, and probably more I'm forgetting somehow.
I have 7 cats and 2 dogs.
I love Wheat Thins, seriously... I ate a whole box once.
My favorite TV shows are 24, HOUSE M.D., and Bones.
Some other movies I like besides RENT are Forrest Gump, Sweeney Todd, The Lion King, Tommy Boy, and Across the Universe.
I really have a problem with people who have a problem with RENT for the wrong reasons, if you know what I mean. It's not the people that hate musicals, those people are just... well, deprived and sad individuals.
I have a serious problem with RENT fans who fail to realize that the RENT actors are human and they do in fact get sick and tired and stuff, and they don't need to be harassed for not coming to stagedoor, since that's not even an obligation, it's a choice they make sometimes since they're nice. (Just sayin'!)
I like Star Wars... used to write fics in that fandom. :D Um...
I'm into politics. I support Obama, obviously. :)
I hate pancakes. And waffles. I know, it's kind of weird.
My favorite color is purple.
I'm from the not-much-but-it's-home state of O-H-I-O. (We have this weird fascination with spelling our state name... yeah, I know, pretty strange.)
I play the flute and have done so for 8 years. (As I type 87, lol.) Marching band was AWESOME