Podcast guest Telly Leung (In Transit, Godspell) shares why Broadway's smallest theatre will always hold a special place in his heart.
"'The Broadway Basement' is my term of affection for the Circle in the Square Theatre ("CITS"). I have the honor and pleasure of doing two Broadway shows there."
"The first show was Godspell in 2012. The 10 of us on stage were a tight knit ensemble that supported each other on and off the stage in one of the hardest shows I've ever done. We barely left the stage. There was a dance party on stage during intermission, which meant many of us do not have a break in the middle. I personally had to come back early from intermission and bring the audience back into Act 2 with a reprise of "learn your lessons well" at the piano. There was a pool of water, and trampolines hidden and David Korins' simple and elaborate set - and we made lots of use of all his hidden surprises! (I will never forget Lindsay Mendez's face when she was told she would be singing a high-C 8 times a week while jumping on a trampoline!)."
"The show was about community and collaboration, and our director Daniel Goldstein went through an exhaustive casting process to find just the right kind of artists that could handle such a task eight times a week on Broadway. It was a show that required the kind of artists that could take the spot light when it was their turn to shine, but I also know how to step back and support your fellow ensemble members. Everyone had to check their ego at the door."
"The show had no star. The ensemble was the star."
"It took all of our talents combined to pull off that show, and because we all went to battle together eight times a week on that stage, it remains a very tight family even today."
"When the show closed, I had no idea the five years later I would be returning to CITS with another very difficult ensemble show. In Transit is 90 minutes of straight singing for the 11 vocal athletes on stage. Because it is Broadway's first a cappella musical, we do everything: every sound on stage is made by the human voice. There is no band. We are the band. That means we are often running around backstage, doing quick changes-while simultaneously singing doots, dits, dahts, and shoo-whops."
"Our brilliant director, Kathleen Marshall, also went through an exhaustive process to find just the right kind of singing actor-musicians that could pull off this kind of show-but she also had to find the kind of actors that have no ego. She had to find "Godspell-ian"-like actors that could hold their own in a solo moment, but also support their fellow actors when it was their time to shine."
"Again: The show had no star. The ensemble was the star."
"The sound that we create with the 11 of us, harmonizing in perfect synchronicity eight times a week in this relentless 90 minute vocal marathon is something that has bonded us for life."
"As I start to say goodbye to In Transit , I am filled with an immense sense of gratitude. Not only did I get to build a family with Godspell, but now I have TWO "Broadway Basement" families."
"There is something very special going on at CITS. If those walls could talk, they'd tell you the most valuable lesson I've learned as an artist by doing these two shows: If you view the world as your ensemble, there's nothing you can't achieve as an artist. You can sing high-C's and jump on trampolines. You can pull off 11 part harmony eight times a week while doing a quick change off stage. You can accomplish all of this because (as Margo Seibert sings in "Getting There") your "strange kind of family" has your back on stage and off."
"Till next time, Circle!"
Hear Telly on our Ensemble Musicals episode here.