For Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama alumnus Telly Leung (A 2002) "Allegiance," which opened on Broadway last week, has been more than just another Broadway credit — it has been the essence of his dedication to the project.
For Leung, who plays a young man in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, the journey with "Allegiance" to The Great White Way has been six years in the making.
"It's a very rewarding process as an actor to work on something truly original," Leung said. "It means that the authors and writers really have the freedom to build the story. What our characters want has changed, and 85 percent of the music has changed since I first laid eyes on this script. It has truly been a labor of love."
"I feel like I put all the amazing knowledge I gained from the wonderful professors at the School of Drama into a backpack … at each stop I just go into my backpack and decide what I'm going to need." — Telly Leung
The story of "Allegiance" goes back to a conversation among George Takei and writer and composer team Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione during intermission of the Broadway musical "In The Heights." Takei was so moved by one of the songs that he was prompted to tell the story of his family's internment during WWII. Kuo and Thione agreed it would make a great musical.
From staged readings in 2010 to a workshop and later world premiere at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, Leung has been connected with the project since its very early days.
"What audiences don't know is the amount of time it takes to re-work the material. Broadway has been the goal and anything after this is just icing," Leung said.
In fact, he credits his ability to stay committed to this project while juggling others to a love of multitasking and his time at Carnegie Mellon.
"I feel like I put all the amazing knowledge I gained from the wonderful professors at the School of Drama into a backpack, and I'm sort of journeying through my career and at each stop I just go into my backpack and decide what I'm going to need," he explained.
Among the other projects he's taken on in tandem with "Allegiance" over the past six years has been the creation of a short film with fellow former CMU students Zachary Halley (A 2002) and David Larsen (A 2002), called "Grind" and the creation of two studio albums, the latest of which, called "Songs for You," drops today.
However, "Allegiance" holds a special place in his heart as it meant collaborating with people he admires on a project that brings another level of diversity to an already exciting Broadway season.
"I think there is a great surge for inclusiveness in our country and it's reflected in the arts. I think the Broadway season this year is a great representation. "Allegiance," "Hamilton," and "On Your Feet" are great examples of producers putting their money toward saying 'these people in our country are also American,'" Leung said.