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Exclusive: ShowTickets.com Interview with Telly Leung

March 8th, 2017 Comments off
Telly Leung (Photo: Leon Le Photography via The Broadway Blog.)

Telly Leung (Photo: Leon Le Photography via The Broadway Blog.)

“There’s no people like show people!” (Or so sang Ethel Merman.) The Broadway Blog is thrilled to announce our partnership with ShowTickets.com, one of the best online resources for choosing, purchasing, and saving on the most popular shows nationwide. We’ve combined creative forces to bring you exclusive interviews with some of Broadway’s biggest stars.

Our first column features Telly Leung, currently starring in In Transit on Broadway. Telly shares with readers about Broadway’s first a cappella musical, his audition experience, backstage insights, and his favorite NYC hot spots.

For the full article click here.

Justin Guarini and Telly Leung in 'In Transit.' (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Justin Guarini and Telly Leung in ‘In Transit.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus)

15 Minutes With ‘In Transit”s Rick Hip-Flores

January 13th, 2017 Comments off

by Ryan Leeds

'In Transit' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

‘In Transit’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Rick Hip-Flores is a seasoned musical director, having worked on several projects both on and off Broadway. Yet he, along with the cast of In Transit, is currently exploring unprecedented territory by being the first completely a cappella Broadway show.

The harmonic tuner is currently enjoying an open ended run at Circle in the Square and explores the daily grind for a diverse bunch of New Yorkers—complete with joy, frustration, dreams, and reality.

Photo provided by Rick Hip-Flores.

Photo provided by Rick Hip-Flores.

Hip-Flores recently spoke with the Broadway Blog to discuss the unique aspects of rehearsing and conducting what he considers a “tough beast to tame.”

A cappella singing used to have old-fashioned appeal with glee clubs and barbershop quartets. In the last few years, it’s become quite hip, thanks to groups like Rockapella, Straight No Chaser, Pentatonix and the Pitch Perfect movie franchise. What is it about this style that people find so appealing?

Immediately, I think people react to the human voice. The creative spirit of a cappella is that you don’t need to be classically trained to create music. A group of people can get together, create an arrangement and make it sound great. Mainly, there is an automatic connection when you hear the human voice. Instruments only emulate it.

With “cantata” (musically accompanied singing), it’s somewhat easier to blend singers who possess a variety of vocal skills and techniques, but with a cappella, there has to be a collective synchronicity. You clearly found the right blend with In Transit. What was the audition process like and how you were able to find the right talent?

These actors went through the hardest vetting process of any show I’ve been a part of. They had to sight read, sing in groups, and possess music theory knowledge. In terms of blending with the cast, we listened to their placement of vowels, how much vibrato they used, and other factors that aren’t considered as solo performers. On top of all this, they had to come across as engaging performers. There are many hats that have to be worn for In Transit.

Erin Mackey in 'In Transit.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Erin Mackey in ‘In Transit.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

How is the cast able to stay on pitch from the beginning of each show through the end?

In talking to people after the show, they are always blown away by the cast’s ability to do that, but I have to say that pitch is not the hardest part for them. The most difficult components are staying perfectly in sync rhythmically, keeping the same tempos, and finding the right volume and blend.

Did the cast come into rehearsals knowing the music or was that taught to them?

They all came in completely cold. A few of them had done prior workshops of the show, so they knew a little bit, but all of the parts had been rewritten anyway, so it was all new. The creative team told me that the first ten days would be spent solely on learning the score. In a typical rehearsal process, only three days would be spent on music. At first, I wondered how the cast would sit still for 80 straight hours of music rehearsal. To my surprise, they were extremely intent on learning it and getting it right and I think it shows in the final product.

Margot Seibert and James Snyder in 'In Transit.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Margot Seibert and James Snyder in ‘In Transit.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

I certainly don’t mean to imply that any of the performances in this show are akin to a lip-synced Mariah Carey performance but due to the amount of sounds coming from such a small ensemble, are any of the parts pre-recorded?

(Joking) Well, I wouldn’t tell you if they were. No. Nothing is pre-recorded. Even offstage singing is live. Sometimes, the cast may be changing a costume, moving a set piece, and singing their part at the same time. So the audience will hear the smooth sounds but have no idea what mayhem is going on behind the scenes.

Is this the first time you’ve worked at length in the a cappella arena?

It is. I worked on some arrangements in college, but this is the first time I’ve worked on it in this capacity. It has a whole series of challenges but I will take what I’ve learned from In Transit and apply it both to music that is not a cappella and instrumental music.

Besides the obvious addition of instrumentation, what are some of the challenges and differences between this show and other musical theater projects?

The biggest challenge is from the audience’s point of view. If you think about the energy that a band creates, you can turn up the volume and have the band providing the foundation for that energy. With a cappella, you don’t have the same dynamic variety and range and you have to create it all with the voice. Musically, it’s tough to create a varied evening through a cappella, but I think that the composers achieved it very well.

In Transit
Circle in the Square
235 West 50th Street, NYC

Ryan Leeds is a freelance theatre journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Miss This Stop: ‘In Transit’ on Broadway

December 14th, 2016 Comments off
'In Transit' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

‘In Transit’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I walked into In Transit, the recently opened a cappella musical on Broadway at Circle in the Square, with a major chip on my shoulder. I’m not a fan of cutesy doo-wop, and even the show’s logo—a MetroCard with a rainbow of transit lines cascading across my playbill—left me doubtful at best. Well… I’m eating my words. Or perhaps singing them without accompaniment, as the case may be. In Transit is a joyful, heartfelt, complicated celebration of New York City that will appeal to most tourists (unless you’re from Texas, but we’ll get to that) and jaded locals like myself.

Directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall (Anything Goes, Nice Work If You Can Get It), In Transit follows a cross-section of New Yorkers (mostly 30- and 40-somethings) as they weave their way in and out of the subterranean concrete jungle, creatively designed by Donyale Werle and beautifully lit by Donald Holder.

Margot Seibert and James Snyder in 'In Transit.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Margot Seibert and James Snyder in ‘In Transit.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

We meet Jane (Margot Seibert), a struggling actress hoping to find her big break; Nate (James Snyder), recently fired from his high-paying executive job, along with his sister Ali (Erin Mackey), who is trying to bounce back from the end of a relationship by running the New York Marathon; Trent (Justin Guarini) and Steven (Telly Leung), a gay couple on the verge of marriage if Trent can come out to his conservative “Momma” (a show-stealing, Moya Angela, who also appears as Althea, a station attendant with an attitude); and a wildly talented ensemble who provide the framework for their intertwining tales, including Boxman (alternately played by Chesney Snow and Steven “HeaveN” Cantor). I saw Cantor lay down the gauntlet with his stellar beatbox skills, which could replace an orchestra’s entire percussion section.

Music supervisor Rick Hip-Flores (Fun Home, Beautiful, Rocky) has his hands full with the material provided by credited authors, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth. And while I can’t say I left the theater humming any show tunes, the complexity of these 11-part arrangements can’t go unnoticed. But it’s Marshall’s sensitivity to the material that keeps In Transit in tune.

Erin Mackey in 'In Transit.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Erin Mackey in ‘In Transit.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Played with heartbreaking honesty, you can’t help but feel for Seibert’s Jane when she lands her first Broadway gig and the surprising twist that comes shortly thereafter. Also handled with complicated aplomb is the unconventional outcome of Trent’s strained relationship with his religious-right mother from Texas when he questions whether to formally come out to her as gay.

While mostly a celebration of New York City’s liberal views and diverse city streets, the only hiccup I felt was a sequence in which the gay couple goes to visit “Momma” and Texans are portrayed as backwater, gun-toting, simpletons. It’s a stroke brushed too broadly in an otherwise earnest script. Seibert and Snyder, who appeared last season in Ever After (directed and choreographed by Marshall for Paper Mill Playhouse), have terrific chemistry, while Mackey’s broken Ali is a living snapshot of anyone who’s gone through a terrible break-up.

The cast of In Transit, with their pitch-perfect harmonies and purposeful movement, will gently tug at your heartstrings. In these times of “us versus them,” there’s a bigger message they’re delivering: We’re all in this together, and love and compassion are notes worth holding on to.

In Transit
Circle in the Square
235 West 50th Street, NYC

Matthew Wexler is the Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on social media at @roodeloo.