We are happy to welcome guest celebrity blogger Telly Leung, whose Broadway credits include Flower Drum Song, Pacific Overtures and the final cast of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rent. Leung, who will play the role of Angel in the Hollywood Bowl's Aug. 6-8 starry production of Rent (directed by Neil Patrick Harris), will blog for Playbill.com all week; his first entry follows.
I. LOVE. RENT. I'm sure many of you do, too. It was the first show I saw when I was in high school, and it inspired me to pursue a career in theater. I felt so blessed to be part of the final company on Broadway, in the touring cast with Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp, and now, playing Angel in this new production at the Hollywood Bowl, directed by RENT alum Neil Patrick Harris.
For those of us who are lucky enough to have been part of this show, it is a family. I know it may sound cheesy - but we REALLY mean it - and I was so excited for "the first day of school" on Monday, July 26, when we'd get to add new family members to the clan! I saw many familiar faces from the RENT family (Gwen Stewart, Tracie Thoms, Miri Park, Yassmin Alers, Aaron Tveit) and also got to welcome some new family members that day as well (folks like Wayne Brady, Vanessa Hudgens, Skylar Astin, Nicole Scherzinger - and choreographer Jamal Sims). Another familiar face in the room was Tim Weill, our music director (and the original music director from the original incarnation of RENT at NYTW) - and boy was I happy to see him! You see...
There's no time to lose! The rehearsal schedule at the Hollywood Bowl is insane. We had 10 days to do a massive show for a venue that seats about 17,000 people! Not only that, but this ain't yo mama's RENT! Not only does Neil have some fresh, new ideas, but he's also expanded the cast. Instead of the usual 15 in the company (with many of us playing several featured roles), we are a cast of 25! The set is huge. The orchestrations have been expanded from the original 5 pieces to 12 pieces!
The next several days of rehearsal were a blur. We flew through music rehearsals (thanks to Tim) and roughly sketched out the scenes and choreography because we had a deadline - a run-through for our designers on Saturday night. That's right. Count 'em, kids! We were going to learn the ENTIRE show and do a run-through - in 5 days! Surprisingly, our "stumble-through" on Saturday went better than we all expected. There's plenty of work to do in the remaining 4 days of rehearsal (Crazy! We open FRIDAY?! WHAT?!?!), last the but there's a beautiful show there - and our amazing creative team (Neil, Tim, Jamal, and the team of designers) have created something new and fresh for this unique venue. It's a fresh look at RENT, but it's in the same spirit of the original production - and I am so proud to be a part of it.
Favorite moments from my first week of rehearsal:
1. Having a traditional "peasant feast" with the entire cast and the Larson family. It's a RENT tradition - to gather a new company together with the Larson family and some of Jonathan's close friends - to welcome everyone to the "family."
2. Getting to be in rehearsal with Wayne Brady. Yes - he is REALLY that funny in person, too. And we've had a blast working together and LAUGHING. LOTS of laughing.
3. Hearing Vanessa Hudgens sing ANOTHER DAY. Not a dry eye in the room. Same with Aaron Tveit singing YOUR EYES. I was a teary mess!
4. Watching Nicole Scherzinger's performance piece. For the RENT fans out there, get ready for a fresh, new take on OVER THE MOON. Like I said - new show, same spirit! She's genius!
5. Working with Jamal Sims on some new choreography for TODAY 4 U. It felt good to put on the heels again - blisters and all!
6. Listening to our incredible cast of 25 all singing together! It is a wall of sound - and it's RENT like we've never heard it before! GET READY TO BE BLOWN AWAY, HOLLYWOOD BOWL!
Off to the Bowl today for our first rehearsal in the space (in the sun!)! Can't wait! More to come tomorrow!