Telly Leung Hopes to Inspire Social Change With His Work

When Telly Leung auditioned for the play “In Transit,” he viewed the play as a sincere and straightforward “love letter” to New York.


“In Transit” has been named the first-ever a cappella musical on Broadway. The show is about 11 individuals from Manhattan whose lives intertwine on the New York subway system. Leung stars in the play as Steven, whose fiancee Trent (played by Justin Guarini) is having a hard time telling his Christian mother about his relationship with Steven before their wedding.


Since musical theater has recently embraced queer theme in plays like “Hedwig and the Angry Itch” and “Fun Home,” the love story between Trent and Steven seems pretty conventional. A day before “In Transit” was set to preview (Nov. 9), the future of LGBTQ rights became pretty uncertain following Donald Trump’s announcement to run for president. Leung said that this event made “In Transit” even more necessary.


Leung shares that the entire show is about individuals who are attempting to reach a destination but feel stuck and helpless. He also states that New Yorkers are quite driven and often in a hurry. It’s also not uncommon for New Yorkers to get frustrated when they can’t get to their destination on time for any reason.


Leung also explains that the queer aspect of the play is not why it’s so important right now. The diverse cast, which have to work very closely together, is a shining artistic example of what the world needs to see right now.


“In Transit” is also increasing in popularity as Leung’s previous works are becoming popular again. “Allegiance,” the story of a Japanese-American family thrown into internment camp during WWII hits the screen at the same time “In Transit” is on stage. The show hit the Broadway stage in November 2015 to mixed reviews, and starred “Star Trek” alum George Takei.


Leung states that both of these artistic works are a reminder that art “doesn’t exist in a vacuum.” He emphasizes that the messages of hope, togetherness and human decency are more important now than ever, and that there are several lessons to be learned from the characters in these works.