Meet the Fil-Am actress in the Broadway revival of ‘Merrily We Roll Along’
There’s another Filipino name to watch out for on the Broadway stage, and this time, she’s in a well-received revival of a musical by the late theater icon Stephen Sondheim.
Sondheim is one of the most revered figures in musical theater, as the composer and lyricist behind classic, award-winning works like “Sweeney Todd,” “West Side Story,” “Into the Woods,” “Sunday in the Park with George,” and “Company.”
He’s also inspired many other musical theater composers and writers, like Jonathan Larson (who created “Rent” and “Tick, Tick… Boom!”) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton,” “In the Heights”). So to become part of a Sondheim production is nothing short of a dream for most theater professionals.
One of Sondheim’s works is running again on Broadway, decades after it first debuted in the ‘80s. “Merrily We Roll Along”—a musical running in reverse chronology about three friends whose lives and friendship change drastically over two decades.
Its run in the ‘80s was praised mostly for its music despite initially receiving negative reviews. Subsequent productions over the decades have improved upon the material, and it has since been produced in Off-Broadway and the West End to critical success (and awards nominations).
In October, the revival of “Merrily We Roll Along” raised its curtains once again on Broadway, headlined by award-winning actors Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe, and Lindsay Mendez. The show received positive reviews and has recently announced that it is extending its run to July 2024.
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Joining this growing theater legacy is Filipino-American actor and singer Leana Rae Concepcion, who made her Broadway debut with the production.
Touted as one of Broadway’s rising stars, she has previously starred in Off-Broadway productions like “Comfort Women,” and in workshop productions of ShowTown Theatrical’s “Romy and Michele” and Disney Theatrical Group’s “Descendants: One Act Edition.”
In “Merrily,” Concepcion plays multiple roles of Clara, newscaster, and auditionee. She is also an understudy for one of the supporting roles, Beth Shepard.
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Before discovering her love for performing, Concepcion aimed to pursue a career in the military. She shares that she initially wanted to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point but taking classes at a dance conservatory shifted her goals. She then moved to New York to attend Pace University, where she got a degree in Musical Theatre.
At Pace, she starred in university productions of musicals “A Little Night Music,” “A Chorus Line,” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Most recently, she was in Paper Mill Playhouse’s production of “Rent,” where she became the first Asian American to play the role of Joanne. Paper Mill Playhouse is a regional theater in New Jersey (where Eva Noblezada and Jeremy Jordan currently star in a production of the new musical “The Great Gatsby”).