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BWW Feature: At Home With Telly Leung

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In spite of the madness, Telly took out some time to do this digital interview with Broadway World Cabaret.

The Law of Inertia says that a body at rest or in motion will remain so until it is acted upon by a force. Telly Leung is in motion, he is in constant motion, and he will remain in motion - no force can act strongly enough to stop him. He is a man on a mission to achieve, to accomplish as much as he can in the amount of time he has been given. The multiple-threat artist is either working in the theater, in the clubs, in the recording studio... even in quarantine, Mr. Leung has kept busy creating art and inspiring others through his teaching and with workout videos posted to his social media. That is the force that is Telly Leung, and there is no stopping him.

In spite of the madness, Telly took out some time to do this digital interview with Broadway World Cabaret, and we are proud to reproduce that interview in its entirety for Telly fans everywhere.

Name: Telly Leung

First Cabaret Show (Title, Year, Club): "Let Me Sing", Don't Tell Mama, 2003

Most Recent Cabaret Show: "You Matter" Virtual event for BCEFA - click HERE

Website or Social Media Handles: www.tellyleung.com, @tellyleung

Hi Telly and welcome to Broadway World Cabaret! How's your summer going so far?

Summer has been "fine." Of course, there are things about New York City summer that I miss: going to the theater, Pride festivities, etc. But, I can't complain. My family in Brooklyn is healthy. My husband and I are healthy. We have food on our table and a roof over our heads. For 2020, I think that's "fine." It's actually more than "fine."

You recently played your first live concert in months - put a picture in my head of all the thoughts and emotions that went into that experience.

This COVID experience has been traumatizing for all of us, especially performers who make their living singing for live audiences. We are constantly weighing the need to work and put food on the table and our own health (and the health of others). My music director, Gary Adler, and I have a long relationship with the owners of THE BLUE MOON in Rehoboth, and they assured us that they were taking extreme measures to ensure everyone's safety: audience, employees, performers. We played to a 50% capacity house, masks were required, and intense cleaning measures were taken in order to give both the performers and the audience an experience free of anxiety. Of course, we were nervous going into the situation. Who wouldn't be? But, the Blue Moon made it a very pleasant experience for all. It was wonderful to get to sing for an audience again.

While under quarantine you maintained an enormous online presence, with music videos, exercise inspirations, and a cover of "The Changing Table." Why did you feel it was important to stay active in the time of crisis?

"The Changing Tabler" was such silly fun! How adorable is Susie Mosher's baby, Hudson? That was just pure fun for my dear friend, Susie. I LOVED watching everyone get in on the act.

As for staying artistically active during this time, I think it's just how I'm built. Actors are resourceful and deep down, we are built for this kind of experience. Before COVID, we dealt with uncertainty and job insecurity. Financial instability is not new to us. Of course, this is more extreme than the normal roller coaster of unemployment and being "between gigs" - but I've always been someone that creates. Sometimes, I'm blessed to create and get paid for it and sometimes I do it for free (either for charity, or just because).

The lockdown forced me to create with the limitations of social distancing, so I had to figure out how to be my own wardrobe, sound designer, lighting designer, and accompanist during this time. It's been stressful to create, but I've also learned a LOT in the last few months. I've learned how to edit my own content and use Fianl Cut, I've learned how to mix my own music with Logic, I've learned how to turn my living room into a recording studio. The need to create has actually forced all of us to learn skills outside of just performing.

A lot of performers won't be back on stage for a long time. What's the most valuable lesson you've learned about taking your work to the internet?

I've learned a lot. First and foremost, I've learned that NOTHING will ever replace the live experience. LIVE is LIVE. There's nothing like the feeling of watching the house lights go down with another 1000+ people in a Broadway theater to be transported elsewhere for 2.5 hours. As a performer, there's nothing like the immediate response you get from an audience as you share a story with them that takes them somewhere else. But, since we can't do that right now, I've had to learn how to (or at least, attempted to) give that feeling to people through Facebook live, or instagram videos or Zoom. A virtual event isn't live - but it can still be very moving in its own way. Sometimes, I'm not just moved by the content itself, but I'm also moved by the resourcefulness and creativity that comes from having digital and technological limitations. Sometimes (like in the case of Hamilton), I'm moved that an experience that was exclusive and cost-prohibitive to so many is now accessible and available to a larger audience.

It's been interesting to hear how couples in New York apartments are faring during the lockdown because of spatial limitations. Pat and I have loved every minute of being locked up together - what's the experience been like for you men at your home?

We live in a tiny 500 square foot apartment in midtown. We try to give each other as much space as possible. When we wake up, we convert our bedroom into an office for him, and I turn the living room into a music studio / performance space for virtual events or a class room for my students. We try to end work around the same time so that we can strike everything and turn our "office" back into a "home." It was difficult at first, but we've found that setting time and spatial boundaries really helps keep our sanity.

We haven't killed each other, and it's been 5 months - so that's a win.

You've been working on an exciting new project titled YOU MATTER that has an important charity tie-in. Is it too early in the process for us to hear about it?

YOU MATTER is the brainchild of my music director, Gary Adler (Alterboyz, Avenue Q). He wrote the song in May when he was feeling kinda blue, and we decided to make a video and post it. It got over 10,000 views in one day. Gary had this idea to do an entire EP and make it a benefit for BCEFA, since they lost out on so many fundraisers like Easter Bonnet and Broadway Bares. We wanted to challenge ourselves as artists to see if we could make an entire music project without actually seeing each other. We recorded on our own. I was apartment sitting for a friend who lived in a high-rise with a walk in closet, so I turned it into a recording studio. We shot music videos to accompany each song, and I gave myself a crash-course in Final Cut pro and Logic. We hope you'll check out the videos on line, and also consider donating to BCEFA at www.broadwaycares.org/youmatter2020. Every donation is being matched by the Benard L. Maas Foundation up to $15K! Besides "You Matter", there's another original song called "Zoom With You", a sexy 90's inspired slow-jam about the naughty side of Zoom. I also record "Proud of Your Boy" from Aladdin and dedicate it to my parents, who I haven't seen very much because of the quarantine and their age.

We've recently heard the news that Broadway will stay closed till the new year. As an actor who is constantly at work, do you have a plan for staying in the right headspace and keeping creatively active for the rest of the year?

I oscillate back and forth between moments of being very productive and feeling deep despair. I think that's what YOU MATTER does so brilliantly. It captures the entirety of this experience.

Telly, you spent all that time in Aladdin being exposed for 8 shows a week. How much does a man have to work out when he knows he's going to be on that kind of permanent display?

I wasn't as stressed about it, aesthetically. Aladdin is such a challenging role, physically. I had a great physical therapist tell me that you should make sure your body is stronger than the show. It was good advice. I trained a lot for the show (which is basically one-long HIIT workout), but one has to balance REST and RECOVERY as well. You can't work out so much that you have nothing left for the show.

Like everyone, I've definitely packed on some COVID weight and I am definitely NOT in "Broadway" shape. But, I try my best to keep active and in shape with home workouts, resistance bands, body weight HIIT workouts, going to Central Park, biking around NYC on my Citibike.

Telly, thank you so much for chatting with Broadway World today - I am very excited about the release of You Matter later this month!

Thank you for having me! Take care. Stay healthy - and remember: YOU MATTER.

Photo by Ted Ely


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From This Author Stephen Mosher