Telly Leung is a go-to kind of guy. His long list of Broadway credits began with the 2002 revival of Flower Drum Song. He has a long history with Rent that includes the final Broadway company, the national tour with original stars Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal, and the Hollywood Bowl production. The performer spent two years as Disney's Aladdin on Broadway, and has most recently been seen on the Main Stem originating roles in In Transit and then acting alongside George Takei in Allegiance.
It's no wonder that Bloomingdale's has tapped that star power for their Studio 59 Best Holiday Ever cabaret series. Partnering with Broadway Cares, Bloomingdale's American Express exclusive series will run through December at the famous east side flagship department store. Jarrod Spector and Kelli Barrett kicked off the series of five cabaret concert. Leung's concert will take place December 1, followed by Jenn Colella December 8, Jay Armstrong Johnson December 15, and Jelani Remy December 22.
Playbill asked Leung about what audiences can expect from his Bloomingdale's Best Holiday Ever show.
How do you approach building a cabaret show? Do you start with story/songs/themes?
Telly Leung: I approach every cabaret set list differently depending on what I know of that specific audience and venue—but no matter what, I retain my own authentic voice and point of view. No matter what the theme is or where the venue is, I want my audiences to feel like they’ve been hanging out with me in my living room, sharing stories and songs around my piano. One of my favorite cabaret performers ever was Barbara Cook, and she always made you feel like she was an old friend, inviting you to her home for cocktails, good stories and a good time. I aspire to give that feeling to my audience.
What will audiences learn about you that they didn’t know before?
Most people who are familiar with my work know me from the roles I’ve played on stage or television. Cabaret allows me to simply be me. It’s not “Telly Leung as Aladdin” or “Telly Leung as Angel." It’s “Telly Leung as Telly.” And that is both freeing and terrifying. I hope audiences walk away with a sense of who I am.
Is there a number in this show that is particularly special to you? Why?
I do something fun with "A Whole New World" from Aladdin. I also enjoy revisiting songs from Rent because that show holds such a special place in my heart.
How do you get over the nervousness of telling your personal stories onstage?
We all have that small voice in our heads that says we don’t matter, that we aren’t good enough or interesting enough to have stories to share, or that we don’t deserve to take up space. These voices never stop. We just get better at quelling them and drowning them out with positive affirmations that we ARE enough and we DO deserve to take up space.
Tell us about your first memory performing.
I played Santa in my third grade rendition of "'Twas the night before Christmas." I had a fabulous entrance from the hallway. I burst into the classroom in a full Santa suit (that my mom made me) and I gave a Tony-worthy “On Dasher! On Prancer! On Comet! On Vixen!”
For more details on Bloomingdale's "Best Holiday Ever," visit Bloomingdales.com or on Instagram @Bloomingdales.