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Telly Leung and Courtney Reed in “Aladdin.”


Exclusive to the Filipino Reporter


Broadway’s newest Aladdin Telly Leung tells the story that when he was 12 years old he watched Lea Salonga win her Tony award on TV and he exclaimed, “YES! You can be up there too!”

“She continued to be a role model when I worked with her on my first Broadway show, FLOWER DRUM SONG (2002) and when we co-starred together in ALLEGIANCE (2015). She’s always been a Broadway big sister to me.”

Telly takes over the title role of Aladdin, the poor young man who discovers a genie in a magic lantern.

Juwan Crawley is the Genie of the Lamp who gives Aladdin the powers to woo Princess Jasmine (Courtney Reed) whom he loves.

From Broadway big sis to the Stuyvesant High School’s Arts in the School Program to the Great White Way, Telly found his “tribe.”

“The arts were introduced to me in school (music classes, singing in chorus, doing theater after school),” he said.

“I saw my first Broadway show (INTO THE WOODS) on PBS when it was airing on Great Performances. I joined the Broadway company of RENT in 2006 and remained with the show till it closed on Broadway, playing a myriad of roles (including ANGEL). It was one of those shows that will stay with me forever. The RENT family remains very close today, and it was a show that had a profound effect on me when I was in high school and saw the original company on Broadway.”

“ALADDIN is my seventh Broadway show, and it’s a very challenging part. But, I think the years of training and all that experience from my six previous Broadway shows have helped me so much in my preparation for this massive role,” Telly said.

“I credit my wonderful training at Carnegie Mellon for the technique that gets me through the show consistently eight times a week. Working on a show like ALLEGIANCE was good training for being a leading man on Broadway. A challenging vocal show like IN TRANSIT prepared me for the singing challenges of the show. Being hired as a dancer in my first Broadway show, FLOWER DRUM SONG, prepared me for all the Casey Nicholaw choreography I have to execute every night.”

With Telly at the pilot’s seat of the magic carpet, Aladdin brings you the magic of Broadway!

The show continues to bring the fanfare and fabulous, glitz and glamour.

Families love this musical.

It is brightly entertaining.

The songs and dance are most enjoyable.

We even delight in the evil maneuverings of Jafar (James Moye) and his slimy sidekick Iago (Don Darryl Rivera — the best of Pinoy sleaze).

Reflecting on his role Telly explains, “The character of Aladdin learns a very important lesson during the course of the show. He has to learn that one’s worth isn’t necessarily defined by clothes or riches or social status. Being a ‘prince’ is so much more than material things.”

“It’s about one’s worth as a human being, defined by his / her actions. He learns to love himself by being true to himself and to those he cares about (like the Genie and Jasmine). It’s that commitment to his core values that ends up being the thing that earns Jasmine’s love and affection — not all that Prince Ali garb.”

Telly shares the lesson of self-worth and confidence for “all of those aspiring Asian-American actors.”

“You may feel discouraged because you don’t see a lot of representation in film / TV / Broadway. That is natural, but do not be discouraged. Keep at it. Keep going. Keep training and working hard on your craft. Have faith that at the end of the day, talent and skill is something that in undeniable.”

“Just be at the top of your game when those opportunities come your way, and say YES. Don’t count yourself out because you feel like the-powers-that-be aren’t going to cast an Asian person in the role. Get in that audition room, and make a strong case for yourself. Be bold, and be your best — and SOMEONE will notice. Visibility isn’t just booking that job on TV or on Broadway. It’s also about being visible at the audition and proving yourself as a viable choice.”

“Be bold — and be your best!”

Looks like Lea’s Lil’ Bro has become Big Broadway Brother.

Tickets are available for purchase through AladdinTheMusical.com, by calling Ticketmaster’s Disney on Broadway hotline at 866-870-2717, or in person at the New Amsterdam Theatre box office (214 West 42nd Street).

For more information on Aladdin, visit AladdinTheMusical.com.

Connect with Aladdin on Facebook.com/Aladdin and Twitter.com/Aladdin.


Questions and Answers


FILIPINO REPORTER: Tell me more about your family background. Were your parents or family into theater and the arts?

TELLY LEUNG: I was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y.

My parents are both immigrants from China, and they came to this country in 1975, hoping for a better life than they had growing up in Communist China during the Cultural Revolution.

My parents came to New York with $200 in their pockets, and crashed with friends in Chinatown when they first came here, and I’m an only child because they could only afford to have one kid.

My mom started working in the garment factories of Chinatown.

She worked hard and even took herself to school in the evenings to further her education — and over the years she has worked for many of the top designers in NYC.

My dad started working in Chinese restaurants, and eventually worked his way up to manager.

They are now both semi-retired, and still living in Brooklyn.

My family has NO arts or theater background.

As blue collar parents, they spent much of their New York life working and saving money and achieving the American dream.

They didn’t have the time to resources to go and explore New York arts, even though it was just a short subway ride away.

The arts was introduced to me in school (music classes, singing in chorus, doing theater after school).

I saw my first Broadway show (INTO THE WOODS) on PBS when it was airing on “Great Performances.”

FR: When did you realize you wanted to be an actor?

TL: I came to this realization in high school.

I went to a math & science high school in NYC called Stuyvesant High School.

I did a lot of after-school theater because it was a break from all the academics.

It took me by surprise when I fell in love with the theater.

It was the one place in high school that I felt like I belonged.

The theater is inclusive.

Theater can only happy with collaboration, and I found my “tribe” spending all those hours after school putting on a show.

FR: What and who influenced you to pursue a career in acting? Who are your role models?

TL: All through my life, I’ve had some amazing teachers in my life.

Every teacher I’ve ever had has been a role model to me.

The list is long.

It includes my piano teacher at 8 years old.

It includes acting teachers and chorus teachers.

It includes all of those teachers at Stuyvesant that volunteered their time after school so we could put on a show.

It includes all those brilliant professors I had at Carnegie Mellon University, where I got most of my formal training.

It includes all of those teachers that I study with to this day, who help me maintain my instrument in tip-top shape eight times a week.

I’ve also had so many colleagues and co-stars who have inspired me.

One of them is Lea Salonga.

At 12 years old, I watched her win a Tony award on my television, and that visibility subconsciously said to 12-year-old me: “YES! You can be up there, too!”

She continued to be a role model when I worked with her on my first Broadway show, FLOWER DRUM SONG (2002) and when we co-starred together in ALLEGIANCE (2015).

She’s always been a Broadway big sister to me.

FR: Besides playing Aladdin, what was your most favorite role and why?

TL: I’m having a wonderful time in ALADDIN, but I have a special place in my heart for RENT.

I joined the Broadway company in 2006 and remained with the show till it closed on Broadway, playing a myriad of roles (including ANGEL) and it was one of those shows that will stay with me forever.

The RENT family remains very close today, and it was a show that had a profound effect on me when I was in high school and saw the original company on Broadway.

I’ve always said that RENT is a show that I could do forever.

FR: What’s your favorite medium to perform: TV, film, Broadway, Off Broadway, plays, musical theatre, etc.?

TL: I love all of those mediums, but there is nothing like performing in a Broadway show.

Broadway is hard, but there is nothing more gratifying as an artist.

It requires discipline.

You work very hard at very high physical and artistic standards, eight shows a week.

You sacrifice weekends, social time with your loved ones and family, etc.

But, it’s all worth it.

The Broadway community is very special — and there is nothing like performing live every night and getting to have a relationship with an audience.

It’s exhilarating.

FR: How do you prepare for the role of Aladdin? How has your past acting experience helped you with Aladdin?

TL: ALADDIN is my seventh Broadway show, and it’s a very challenging part.

But, I think the years of training and all that experience from my six previous Broadway shows have helped me so much in my preparation for this massive role.

I credit my wonderful training at Carnegie Mellon for the technique that gets me through the show consistently eight times a week.

Working on a show like ALLEGIANCE was good training for being a leading man on Broadway.

A challenging vocal show like IN TRANSIT prepared me for the singing challenges of the show.

Being hired as a dancer in my first Broadway show, FLOWER DRUM SONG, prepared me for all the Casey Nicholaw choreography I have to execute every night.

FR: What major theme or scene in Aladdin has touched you? (e.g., identity, ambition, integrity, gender equality.)

TL: The character of Aladdin learns a very important lesson during the course of the show.

He has to learn that one’s worth isn’t necessarily defined by clothes or riches or social status.

Being a “prince” is so much more than material things.

It’s about one’s worth as a human being, defined by his / her actions.

He learns to love himself by being true to himself and to those he cares about (like the Genie and Jasmine).

It’s that commitment to his core values that ends up being the thing that earns Jasmine’s love and affection — not all that Prince Ali garb.

FR: What words of advice encouragement would you like to share with aspiring young actors, especially Asian-American talent?

TL: To all of those aspiring Asian-American actors: You may feel discouraged because you don’t see a lot of representation in film / TV / Broadway.

That is natural, but do not be discouraged.

Keep at it.

Keep going.

Keep training and working hard on your craft.

Have faith that at the end of the day, talent and skill is something that in undeniable.

Just be at the top of your game when those opportunities come your way, and say “YES.”

Don’t count yourself out because you feel like the-powers-that-be aren’t going to cast an Asian person in the role.

Get in that audition room, and make a strong case for yourself.

Be bold, and be your best — and SOMEONE will notice.

Visibility isn’t just booking that job on TV or on Broadway.

It’s also about being visible at the audition and proving yourself as a viable choice.

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