Broadway's Telly Leung hosts Master's workshops with Birdsboro theatre

Photo by Emily Thiel Broadway star Telly Leung starts the round of singing "Will I" during the "Rent" workshop at Alpha/Omega Players Saturday, July 12.
Photo by Emily Thiel Broadway star Telly Leung brought a hands-on "Godspell" workshop to Alpha/Omega Players Saturday, July 12.

BIRDSBORO - One Broadway star brought his talents straight from the Big Apple to the Alpha/Omega Players with workshops designed for children to embrace the camaraderie of theatre. Over 50 students collectively signed up for first-hand lessons with Telly Leung, who has performed in Broadway productions “Company,” “Pacific Overtures,” “Wicked,” “Rent,” and, most recently, “Allegiance.” He also had a run in FOX’s hit show “Glee” as the character of Wes.

The workshops concentrated on one number from the musical “Godspell” for students ages eight to 13 and the musical “Rent” for children 13 and up.

“Both “Rent” and “Godspell” celebrate individuality. But, both shows at their core are also about community, and how we co-exist together on this earth. When you work on a show, or you join a theatre company, you are forming a community,” Leung said in an interview with 21st Century Media. From the workshops, Leung encouraged the children to collaborate together with goals for “the lesson to (hopefully) not only make for better performers, but better human beings.”

The actor brought an authentic Broadway experience to Birdsboro, beginning the sessions with physical and vocal warm ups.

“Air in, air out with nothing getting in the way - that’s all singing is,” Leung said. He relayed the importance of not singing during the first ten minutes of the warm up to increase the preparations. Once air paths were cleared and facial muscles were relaxed, the singing was underway.

“Godspell” students learned the lyrics and choreography to “Light of the World.” Broadway Musical Director Gary Adler accompanied the sessions on the piano. Adler co-wrote off-Broadway musical “Altar Boyz” with composer Michael Patrick Walker. “Rent” was written by Jonathan Larson and premiered on off-Broadway in 1996 the day after Larson’s unexpected death. Adler was in the audience of the premiere show.

During the workshops, Leung focused on having the young actors of Alpha/Omega Players connect to the material in a personal, introspective setting.

“At 16, this show completely changed my life,” Leung said while introducing “Rent.” From all his performances with Broadway shows, “Rent” has been where Leung worked the longest amount of time. Leung even starred as Angel in the Live on Broadway DVD production.

“It’s almost a period piece. You have to put your mind back in 1996,” he said. The rock opera is an updated version of Puccini’s opera “La bohème” to focus on individuals living with HIV in New York City during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. Leung invited the students to close their eyes for some artist’s homework to “think about the words on the page.”

Focusing on the lyrics “ Will I lose my dignity?/Will someone care?/Will I wake tomorrow/From this nightmare, ”Leung asked the students to reflect on when their dignity has been in danger, the despair felt and what woke you up.

“There is no way of doing this show without bringing yourself to it,” he said. Connecting to the material serves as the key to performing. While students were unable to connect to losing friends to the AIDS epidemic, thery were able to connect through their own life experiences.

Delving into the search for personal connections for the song “Will I?” brought some to tears during the introspective period.

“You are now connected to what these people must have felt,” he said. “Through life experiences you find your way into it.”

Connections between the material and the actors is essential to bring the storytelling to life for the audience.

For video of the workshops, visit us on tout.com/southernberksnews

About the Author

Emily Thiel

Emily Thiel is the editor of The Southern Berks News and is the Community Engagement Editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers. Emily joined Berks-Mont in March 2013. She graduated from Kutztown University in 2011 with a degree in English with a concentration in Cultural and Media Studies. Emily is a native of Allentown, Pa. Reach the author at ethiel@berksmontnews.com or follow Emily on Twitter: @sthrnberksnews.