On this eve before 2012 Tony nominations are announced, I wanted to share some of my opinions on this theater season. I’ve managed to see a lot of new shows this year but alas, there are some major ones that have escaped me [ie, Newsies and Porgy & Bess]. This list is just a lovenote to some amazing actors and productions…

For me, musicals fell short this year. Lots of forgetables. As much as I love Spiderman [Be quiet, I will defend that show for eternity.] and would love to see it win and get some positivity, there’s one show that will knock down all others. Every season there’s that one show that wins every category it’s nominated for. Think Memphis. Think Book of Mormon. This year, it’s Newsies.

Best revival of a musical is where it can get tricky. As much as I loved Godspell let’s be honest, next to Evita and Porgy and Bess it doesn’t stand a chance. While I haven’t seen either of those shows, I’ve heard great things about both. I do have a feeling the award will lean a little more towards the Gershwins.

This was a stellar year for plays and this is where I have issues picking a favorite. There’s no clear cut winner for me here. I can narrow it down to 4 – Seminar, The Lyons, Venus In Fur & Peter and The Starcatcher. I have a feeling Starcatcher will win – amazing cast, magical, inventive, a show with heart. I have yet to see their Broadway run but caught the show at NYTW a few times. If it wins, well deserved. …Seminar is a witty, funny, well cast show. I saw it once with the original cast and loved it. Saw it with the new cast, liked it. I did like the casting the second time around but for whatever reason, I was not as engaged as I was the first time around, I think the show needed Lily Rabe back. …The Lyons, I loved. Linda Lavin livessss in that show.  Sorry but, Kate Jennings Grant annoyed me from start to finish. Dick Latessa was great even though his part felt small. For me, aside from Linda, Michael Esper was the one who was shining the brightest. I thoroughly loved his performance and found him to be the one I would relate with the most in some slight way. …Last but certainly not least, Venus In Fur. This show has changed me, I am absolutely in love with it. I have been singing the praises of Nina Arianda for a while now and if she doesn’t win a Tony for her performance, be prepared for my wrath. Brilliantly acted, Nina and Hugh are the perfect pair.

Best revival of a play without a doubt has to go to Death of a Salesman. I have loved Philip Seymour Hoffman for most of my young life and always knew he was something special. I felt beyond privileged to be able to see him on stage. I had box seats and hovered over all the action like a spirit. To me, there was no one else in that audience, I was fixated on that family. You could hear a pin drop. People didn’t dare to even cough. That show was a masterclass in acting and human emotion. PSH was outstanding. Andrew Garfield abolutely blew me away. I wasn’t sure what to expect from him but watching him spar with Philip was something I’ll never forget.

Tony Award nominations will be announced May 1st at 8:30am eastern by Kristin Chenoweth and Jim Parsons. Watch the live webcast on tonyawards.com



Spotlight: Telly Leung

April 13, 2012

You know him from Glee, you know him from the stage, it’s Telly Leung! He’s been a part of Wicked and Rent, and now he’s rocking Godspell 8 shows a week. Definitely a stand-out in that cast, Telly talks about his experience with the show plus his theater past.

Let’s talk Godspell! What I love about the show is that it’s not overly religious, it’s universal and more about how we should all treat each other. What first attracted you to doing Godspell?

The thing that first attracted me to GODSPELL is Stephen Schwartz’s incredible score. Believe it or not, he wrote the whole thing in 3 weeks! It’s kind of mind-blowing, to think that these songs that have touched so many people in the last 40 years was written in 3 weeks by a very talented, 23 year old! The score is filled with such joy – and his melodies linger well after the show is over. Also – there is something about MUSIC that’s able to inspire and touch people of ANY religious background. Music unites – and breaks barriers.


Who has been your favorite guest at Godspell so far? I was there when Paul Shaffer appeared, that was a real treat!

Sharing the stage with Paul Shaffer was great. He is GODSPELL family – and we had a blast with him the show. He is PURE MAGIC behind the piano. He was so game to play, and such a great sport – and supportive of this new production. I think he’s been my favorite on stage guest. My favorite celeb to visit the show has to be Angela Lasbury, hands down! She’s a living legend – and an inspiration to everyone on Broadway.


Your list of theater credits is neverending. What’s something you would love to do if given the chance?

I’ve been very blessed to be a part of a lot of fantastic shows, but I’m bummed that I NEVER got to do Les Miz. It’s one of my favorite shows, and the show has a great reputation of casting actors non-traditionally. I’d love to be a part of the production someday: Marius, Enjoloras, Thenardier, Val Jean, or barricade boy #3! Just wanna sing that score.


What was your experience like being a part of the final RENT cast on Broadway?

RENT was the show of my generation. It was THE show that I saw in high school that inspired me to pursue a career in theater. It was the first time I saw the DIVERSITY of my home, NYC, represented on a Broadway stage, singing music that was of MY generation – and it opened my eyes to the possibility of being part of the Broadway community. I was definitely a RENT head. I must have seen the show over 20 times ever since it opened in 1996 (thank goodness for rush seats and lotto tickets). Who would have thought that 10 years later, in 2006, I’d get to join cast, stand on “the line” singing SEASONS OF LOVE, looking at my front row seat the first time I saw RENT? It was a full circle moment.


 …And how was the Hollywood Bowl experience?

Neil Patrick Harris is part of the RENT family – and I was thrilled he asked me to be a part of this awesome production. We got to add some new folks to the family (Vanessa Hudgens, Nicole Scherzinger, Wayne Brady – my darling Collins) – and they all stepped up to the daunting task of putting together this beast of a show in 10 days! The Hollywood Bowl is a “dream venue” to play. 17,000 seats, being broadcast on a giant jumbo-tron, singing I’ll Cover You with Wayne Brady under the stars… it was an experience I’ll never forget.


Aside from the stage, I’m sure you have a big following because of Glee as well. What has been your favorite part of working on that show?

My favorite part of Glee: Getting to know Darren Criss and my Warbler brothers. It’s truly a great group of guys – all super talented and genuinely good people – and I’m honored and proud to call them my colleagues and friends. We’ve all keep in touch (thanks to twitter and FB), and I miss my boys terribly.


Godspell is such a physically demanding show, so what’s your favorite way to spend a day off?

I try my best to STAY QUIET on my day off. I also try to catch OTHER shows and sitting in the audience, instead of performing. We have Monday nights and Wednesday nights off from GODSPELL, so I actually DO get a chance to see my friends in shows – even though I’m in a show myself. I also enjoy spending my day-off catching up on my DVR!


Anything new on the horizon you can share with us?

I have some exciting things coming up! On May 14 (7 pm), I’ll be doing a one-night only gig at BIRDLAND with an amazing trio of musicians (Gary Adler – composer of ALTERBOYZ is my music director with Michael Croiter on drums and Mary Ann McSweeney on bass). You can get tickets here: http://www.birdlandjazz.com/event/110269/

I’m also working on a solo album as well – with the good folks at YELLOW SOUND LABEL. I’m honored to be working on my full length album with the same folks that have done recordings for other artists I really respect like Chita Rivera & Alan Cumming. http://www.yellowsoundlabel.com/

In the fall of this year, I am expected to star alongside Lea Salonga and George Takei in the world premiere of ALLEGIANCE, a new musical about a Japanese American family during the Internment after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The show is being directed by Stafford Arima, one of my favorite collaborators, and I will be reunited with Christopher Gattelli, my choreographer on GODSPELL. The out-of-town try out of ALLEGIANCE will be at the Old Globe in San Diego, and we have high hopes that the show will open on Broadway in the Spring of 2013. http://www.allegiancemusical.com/


Tell us something not many people know about you…

I hate water chestnuts (I know – shocking, since it’s found in so many Chinese dishes!)


Favorite twitters you follow?

At the moment, my favorite tweets are from my GODSPELL cast mates. We are a VERY tech-saavy cast, and our cast is big on social networking. We all love to tweet, Facebook, use instagram, etc.


Huge thanks to Telly for taking the time to chat with @bwaynews. Be sure to check out Godspell on Broadway. Follow Telly on twitter @tellyleung

Want to win a Playbill signed by Hunter Parrish and the Godspell cast? Of course you do. But, you’re going to have to work for it. I decided to make this a little more fun, so we’re going to do a scavenger hunt! Don’t worry, it will be really easy. Best part is, all the answers can be found right here on bwaynews.com!

How to play:

– There are 3 questions below. Find the answers here on bwaynews.com and email your answers including your twitter handle to bwaynews@gmail.com

– You need to get all three answers correct to get an entry into the contest. Read the questions carefully, don’t get tricked!

– Tweet about the contest on twitter (include my twitter handle so I see it) and receive one extra entry. [limit, one tweet per day]


– You must be following me @bwaynews

– Contest is open to anyone – not only US/Canada (yay!)

– Contest begins 4/6 and will run until 4/15 at 5pm eastern.

Ready? Here’s your 3 questions!

1. What is Adam Chanler-Berat’s favorite snack?

2. When Brandon Rubendall was in Spider-Man TOTD, what was the name of his alter ego?

3. Raymond J. Lee appeared on what reality competition show?

Good luck!

For someone who only came onto the Broadway scene a few years ago, Ephraim Sykes already has some pretty impressive credits under his belt. He started out in the ensemble of Disney’s The Little Mermaid and went on to major shows like Memphis and RENT at New World Stages just this past year. Now, Ephraim has taken on one of the biggest shows 2012 has to offer – Newsies. Based on his twitter feed it’s obvious the theater community loves him!

What first inspired you to be an actor and dancer?

My first inspiration to become a performer was Michael Jackson! I grew up listening to the Bad and Off The Wall vinyls while I did my chores on the weekends and watching all his videos whenever I got home from school!! He has and always will be my favorite performer!

You’ve worked in the largely popular Broadway shows Memphis & RENT. How have your previous roles prepared you for tackling another big show like Newsies?

Doing Memphis and Rent have helped prepare me tremendously for Newsies! Memphis was a very technically demanding dance show for me which required alot of the same moves I’m having to do 8shows a week in Newsies. Rent was very demanding vocally and I learned alot about my voice that I’m able to call upon for the EXTREMELY demanding Newsies score.

For many people, Newsies is a movie very dear to their heart. Did you grow up loving that movie? Any pressure trying to live up to people’s high expectations for a good musical adaptation?

I actually never saw the movie until I was doing the first reading of it about a two years ago and they gave us all a copy of the film. I will say though, once I saw it I was instantly a huge fan of it and was very excited to see what a staged version would be like…always knowing that it would be a great adaptation that would have no choice but to meet and/or exceed people’s expectations.

What has been your favorite part of the Newsies experience so far? I’m sure the standing ovations that keep happening right in the middle of the show have to be pretty awesome!

I have to say that the audience’s standing ovations have been one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced on a broadway stage! #thatisall

Free time while working on Broadway is rare. What’s your favorite way to spend an off day?

I have to say my favorite way to spend a day off is at Spa Castle….35$, stay ALL day, good food, great saunas, steam rooms etc and even nap areas with your own lazy boy and flat screen attached!

I asked my twitter followers to send in some questions for you! I picked one question from @officialgigi. Gabrielle wants to know who your favorite Newsie in the film is.

It’s funny, my favorite Newsie in the film is actually Mush!lol

What would be your ultimate dream role?

To be completely honest, my dream hasn’t been created yet and I hope to one day create a role where I can really act, sing, dance and really bare my soul every night! As for roles done before, I really would love to be Scarecrow in the Wiz (I.e. Michael Jackson in the movie lol)

Tell us a fun fact not many people know about you…

A fun fact not many people know about me is that I actually started out as a musician, playing saxophone and drums my whole life and was actually kind of bad at dancing when I was little!lol I also had a lisp for a few years and anytime I needed to say words with an “s” I said it with an “f” like ” mommy I wanna go fwimming!”

Best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I’ve ever gotten was to think of SHARING your gifts/talents as opposed to thinking of performing or entertaining. That way you take yourself and your ego out of the equation and focus on what matters most which is speaking truthfully from your soul which effects and changes people lives. Be the blessing!

Favorite twitters you follow? (theater and non-theater related)

My favorite people to follow on twitter are Chris Gattelli (@cgattelli), TheInspiredWordNYC (@inspiredWordNYC), African Proverbs (@AfricanProverbs), and Martina Sykes (@ladysykes10) …and of COURSE BWayNews! ; )

Big thanks to Ephraim for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat. Be sure to check Ephraim out in Newsies at the Nederlander Theatre. Follow him on Twitter @ephsykes.

Photo credit: Kevin W. Paige