Telly Leung of “Allegiance” on Broadway Diversity and Sharing the Stage with a Cultural Icon

Usually the fall is a bit boring on Broadway, with many shows wrapping up their runs and spring openings months away.  But this fall, Broadway is coming out swinging with countless openings of new shows and revivals.  In anticipation of all of the openings, we’re interviewing a star of each of these productions.  Today we’re starting off with Telly Leung of Allegiance!

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The Broadway Blogger: You’re starring in a Broadway show with George Takei and Lea Salonga—an all-star cast! What has it been like working with them?

Telly Leung: I’ve known Lea for a long time. I made my Broadway debut in FLOWER DRUM SONG, in the ensemble, covering the lead role of Wang Ta. Lea was the star. There were many Asian actors making their Broadway debuts on that show and Lea was wonderful to all of us. She was our Broadway “big sister” in many ways. It’s ironic (and very fitting) that in ALLEGIANCE, she is actually playing my sister. I look up to her like a big sister. Thrilled I get to work with her again.
As for George, what can I say? Not only do I get to work with someone who was pioneer for Asian actors, and also a pioneer in the LGBT community – but also a wonderful human being and artist. I’ve admired him for so long for both his work as an actor and his work as an activist for equality. I’m so honored – and extremely humbled – to get to be part of this experience. I get to tell HIS story – and the story of so many Japanese-Americans who’ve had their story overlooked in many of our history books.

BB:  This production has been in development for a while. What does it feel like to finally be bringing this to Broadway? How has the show changed and developed throughout the years?

TL: This show is constantly changing and evolving and that is a GOOD thing. It is a testament to the writers, creative team, and artists behind this show – who work tirelessly to challenge themselves with each and every draft.
Sometimes, I am in shock and disbelief that we are ACTUALLY getting the chance to do this show on Broadway. Getting a show to Broadway is so hard – and all the stars have to align. The actors / creative team must be available, there has to be available real estate on Broadway, the funding must be in place, etc etc etc. Lorenzo Thione (our lead producer) has done what many thought was IMPOSSIBLE – getting this “little show that could” to Broadway. It took 6 long years but he did it.

Alegiance Cast
Telly Leung, Lea Salonga, and George Takei in Allegiance

BB:  What makes Allegiance stand out from other shows you’ve worked on in the past?

TL:  I’ve done shows where I’ve been cast specifically because I was Asian (like M. Butterfly, and Pacific Overtures) and shows where I’ve been non-traditionally cast (like Wicked, Godspell, and Rent). What I think is unique about ALLEGIANCE (and many shows this upcoming season – like HAMILTON, ON YOUR FEET, and SHUFFLE ALONG) is that it challenges an audience to look at America differently. Race relations and immigration are hot topics right now in our national consciousness – and the Theater is reflecting / promoting this social dialogue with shows that reflect what America REALLY looks like. In ALLEGIANCE, we tell the story of many Japanese-Americans who were extremely nationalistic and patriotic – but were wrongly treated as “foreign enemies” simply because they happen to LOOK like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor. But, deep in their hearts, they were AMERICAN. They were just as American as the African-American performers in SHUFFLE ALONG, or the Cuban immigrants portrayed in ON YOUR FEET. They are as American as the founding fathers in HAMILTON – even though they are all portrayed by actors of color. This diversity – and this colorful palette IS what America looks like today. I’m glad the American theater is finally representing all the diverse shades and hues or our beautiful country. By having this diversity represented on stage, we actually are able to get in touch with the fact that deep down, we aren’t very different at all!

BB:  Why should audiences see this show?

TL:  If you want to see an original musical – not based on a book or a movie – with a story that makes you THINK as well as FEEL, about a piece of our American history that is often overlooked- with the stellar talents of Tony-winner Lea Salonga & TV star / cultural icon George Takei (and lil’ ol’ me!) – then come see ALLEGIANCE this fall at the Longacre Theater!

Allegiance

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For more information and tickets to the show, click here!

Allegiance begins previews on Broadway October 6th, with an opening night set for November 8th.

Be sure to check back for more interviews with stars from the newest Broadway productions!

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