Broadway’s Telly Leung Is Inspired By …
Over on the new Goldstar blog is a series of Q&As with inspiring, creative people. Check out their interview with Broadway star of Rent, Godspell and now Allegiance with George Takei, Telly Leung (aka Glee’s Dalton Academy Warbler, Wes) where he shares how live entertainment — and Whitney Houston — inspires him.
Tell us about what you do.
I’m an artist, Broadway and TV actor, singer and recording artist, performer, storyteller, producer and teacher. I know that’s a lots of titles, but I truly feel like I’m equally all of those things. I’ve performed on stages all over the world — Broadway, The Hollywood Bowl, London, Tokyo — and I enjoy being on stage as well as off stage, producing and teaching the next generation of artists.
And you haven’t run off to do something else because …
I feel like we’re all put on this earth to use our gifts to contribute in a positive, meaningful way to society. I think I can best do that through storytelling and performing — and opening minds and hearts through music, art and education. If I had the talent for curing ailments, I probably would have been a doctor. But, that wasn’t the gift I was given.
What’s your next big goal?
I got to achieve a big dream by originating a leading role on Broadway in Allegiance. My next goal? I’d love to tackle some Shakespeare.
What personal project are you most excited about now?
I just released a brand new album called Songs For You, and I’m very excited to have the world hear what my band has been creating in the studio. Each of the 12 tracks on the album is a dedication to someone special in my life, personally or professionally, who has helped me get where I am today. This has been such an exciting dream-fulfilling year for me — especially with Allegiance — and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.
Tell us about a personal failure that taught you something valuable.
I grew up with quintessential Chinese “tiger” parents who were very strict with me and wanted me to do well academically. So, I did. I was a straight-A, book-smart high school student at a specialized math and science school. When I got to Carnegie Mellon to train as an actor, I got a C my first semester of acting class, and it was traumatic. I talked to my professor, and he said, “There’s no denying you’re a good student, but being an artist and an actor means taking risks and not being afraid to fail. You apply yourself to the work intellectually, but not emotionally. The latter requires that you not aim to be ‘right’ all the time. Sometimes, you [have to] jump out of the plane with no parachute.” [It was] one of the greatest lessons I ever got. Sometimes it’s through failure and the process of trying that we stumble upon the real gold mines.
What live show excited and inspired you?
I’m a ’90s kid! The first concert I ever went to was Janet Jackson at Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve. She was touring with the Janet album, and I remember watching her with my jaw dropped when she opened the show with “If.”
What live show had the most impact on you as a child?
Whitney Houston live (also at MSG)! It was the My Love Is Your Love tour. She’s always been a vocal idol to me, and getting to hear “the voice” live, at its prime, was an experience I’ll never forget. I remember her singing a few gospel songs in the middle of the set, and feeling like I was watching her tap into something that was so intensely spiritual. She was giving joy to thousands of people in that arena — and using her gift to her maximum capacity to lift spirits. At that moment, I aspired to do the same.