Known to millions from FOX's "Glee," as "Wes," one of the "Warblers" Council Members, Telly Leung is one of our next generation performers who star is rising fast! Prior to "Glee," Telly home was the theatrical stage, starring in "Flower Drum Song" (2003 Broadway revival), Sondheim’s "Pacific Overtures" (2005 Roundabout Theatre Broadway revival), "Wicked" ("Boq" – original Chicago company), and "Rent's" Final Broadway Company, The Broadway Tour, and at the Hollywood Bowl as "Angel" (directed by Neil Patrick Harris, starring Vanessa Hudgens and Wayne Brady), "Song" in "M. Butterfly" (Philadelphia Theater Company), "Godspell" (Paper Mill), "The Bernstein MASS" (Carnegie Hall / Kennedy Center), "Give It Up!" (world premiere, Dallas Theater Center), "Barnaby" in "Hello, Dolly!" and "Harold Bride" in "Titanic" (The St. Louis Muny), "Simon" in "Jesus Christ Superstar" (Music Circus), "Thuy" in "Miss Siagon" (Pittsburgh CLO), and "Lun Tha" in "The King and I" (North Carolina Theater, starring Lou Diamond Philips). Telly can be heard on the original cast recordings of "Flower Drum Song" and "Pacific Overtures." Other recordings include "The Bernstein MASS" (Grammy-nominated), "Wall to Wall Stephen Sondheim - Live From Symphony Space," "Dear Edwina," "Sweet Bye & Bye," and "The Broadway Boys."
In addition to "Glee," Telly has lit up film and television screens in "Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," "The Tony Awards," "Ellen," "The Today Show," and "Good Morning America."
Currently, Telly is starring the fantastically talented cast driven revival of "Godspell" at Circle In The Square in NYC (1633 Broadway at 50th Street, between Broadway & 8th Ave). Click here for tickets!
Next, Telly will be starring as "Young Sam" in the Broadway-bound original musical, "Allegiance" (www.allegiancemusical.com).
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I was lucky to be inspired by some amazing teachers in high school. I went to a math and science high school in NY called STUYVESANT. It was a rigorous academic environment - and I did theater on the side to get away from the physics and calculus. I found that I didn't see the world in MATH (like John Nash in BEAUTIFUL MIND), but I saw it in stories, people and music - and I had wonderful teachers there that validated this passion and love for the arts.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Who wouldn't want to work with Meryl Streep on something?
3. What attracted you to "Godspell"? What do you identify most with about the show/your character? GODSPELL is about how we can all come together - as human beings, of any religious affiliation - and form a community. What I LOVE about GODSPELL is that it's actually NOT a religious show at all. Yes - we are using the Bible as our source for text, but as a non-Christian, the show speaks to me. Whether you believe in Christianity or not, there is no denying that what this brilliant man named Jesus had to say tap into some universal truths about how we can all be better to one another. "Judge not lest ye be judged" and "Always treat others as you would have them treat you" are basic universal tenants that we should ALL live by - Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, whatever. THAT is what speaks to me about this show. If we can spread that message, and lift someone's spirit or inspire someone to be a better person after 2.5 hours at the Circle in the Square, we've done our job.
4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing "Godspell"? (see question 3)
5. What has been the best part about performing with this extremely talented cast? It is a tight company - one of the closest, most collaborative companies I've ever been a part of ever in my career. There is a true bond, and a true sense of trust that has been developed during the process - and I can call these colleagues of mine friends for life. They are there for me - on and off the stage. Plus, after doing the show for almost 6 months of performances (eight times a week), I'm STILL in awe of the amazing talent in the company.
6. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? Where is your favorite place to rehearse on your own? There's a lot of rehearsing "on my own" in the shower! What singer DOESN'T warm up and sing in the shower? It's good multi-tasking, if you ask me!
As for the favorite part of the rehearsal process: This was truly a UNIQUE rehearsal process. Our director really allowed us to CREATE and encouraged us to come up with our own ways of story-telling. I've never been asked to contribute so much of MYSELF in a project, and though it was hard work and a great challenge, what ended up on stage is COMPLETELY "US." We OWN it, and it shows in the way we perform it night after night. It's a gratifying feeling, to know that our "bits" and our "ideas" on stage.
7. Prior to "Godspell," you were starring on Fox's "Glee," as "Wes," one of the "Warblers'" Council Members. What did you enjoy most about being on "Glee"? I've been so lucky to be a part of interesting projects that are more than just "gigs." They are "phenomenons." RENT, WICKED, and GLEE are phenomenons that touch so many people and really speak to a generation. They surpass their respective genres of "just a TV show" or "just a musical," and they enter the main stream and help define an era. Millions of people watch GLEE every week, and it gives so many people so much joy. For some of these "gleeks" who are kids now, they will look back on this time as an adult, and "GLEE" will be the soundtrack they hear in their heads. To be a part of something that affects so many people in a positive way is humbling - and just plain cool.
8. You have been featured on several cast recordings, but you have also written a handful of your own songs. What do you get from writing and singing your own music that you don't get from performing in a theatrical show? I tried to take a stab at writing and producing a few years ago, and I'm glad I did. It gave me great respect for writers, and it made me realize how DIFFICULT it was. I've taken a little break from writing, but maybe I will get back to it one day. Waiting for the right inspiration...In the meantime, I'm working on a solo album, featuring some of my favorite songs. There aren't any originals on it, but maybe on the next CD I'll take another stab at writing. Stay tuned for more details about the upcoming album!
9. The first time we met was at Gavin Creel's concert at The Zipper, when Shayna Steele was opening for him. I remember you telling me at intermission how amazing Shayna was. What is it about both Shayna and Gavin (whom I've had the pleasure of interviewing) that you like so much? Both of them have some of the best voices I've EVER heard in this industry - and they are both capable of so many styles of music. What I love about both of them is their unique sound, and their ability to make you FEEL something when they sing. Yes - their voices are technically close to perfection, but it's their ability to tap into themselves, and invest truth and heart in their music that makes them great singers.
10. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? Every day, I remind myself how LUCKY I am to be doing what I'm doing for a living. I'm a performer - by TRADE - and I'm lucky enough to get to do what I love as my JOB. That is rare. That is a gift. This business is hard, and sometimes we can complain and curse the showbiz gods - but at the end of the day, I'm grateful to get to do what I do: inspire and spread joy to an audience.
11. What's the best advice you've ever received? NEVER stop being a student. There is always something to learn, and the mark of a TRUE artists is someone who never feels like they are "finished" or perfect. Always keep learning.
12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? I'm not sure about "anyone," but if I could dream about "anything," it would be FLYING. I LOVE flying dreams, and I'm always a little sad when I wake up, and I realize it was just a dream.
13. Favorite way to spend your off? Actually, I love going to the theater. I love to sit on "the other side" and be entertained. I'm glad I have wednesday nights off at GODSPELL, so I can go see the other Broadway shows that are happening right now...
14. Favorite way to stay in shape? I'm a BIG fan of P90X! I started doing it when I was on tour with RENT. There are ton of us RENT guys who LOVE working out to P90X - like Nicolette Hart, Adam Halpin, Adam Pascal. We all worked out on tour together and got hooked. It's hard to do the program when you're doing 8 times a week, which is already a work out - but whenever I'm at the gym, I do a modified version of a p90x workout. They are amazing!
15. Boxers or Briefs? All of the above! I don't discriminate: Boxers, Briefs, boxer briefs... Depends on my mood!
16. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I would love to fly.