Call Answered: "John Lloyd Young's Broadway" at Feinstein's/54 Below
I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to interview Tony Award winner John Lloyd Young whose performance as “Frankie Valli” I loved in the Tony Award winning musical Jersey Boys. John is celebrating Broadway this week at Feinstein’s/54 Below with a brand new show performing songs that shaped his earliest Broadway aspirations.
John Lloyd Young’s Broadway will be at Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 West 54th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue) from September 25-29 at 7pm. Click here for tickets!
1. This week you are returning to Feinstein's/54 Below with a brand new show celebrating Broadway. What are you looking forward to most about this show? Like every actor who moves to New York with dreams of Broadway, I had an idea of the roles and shows I wanted to do. JERSEY BOYS took me off on a retro-60s locomotive before I was ever able to fulfill some of those fantasies of doing more mainstream, classic book musicals that I was a huge fan of. This show gives me the opportunity to share some of the material that really got me going back when I was a young aspirant to the stage.
2. What do you think will delight audiences and what will surprise them? These are some of the most exciting songs ever written for the stage, so I think the audiences will be delighted to hear some of their favorites.
What I think might surprise them, especially because of the overwhelming exposure I've had singing as Frankie Valli or Four Seasons-adjacent songs, is the range of material I am singing. There will be several different musical styles you might never expect a JERSEY BOY alum to bring out to play, including some super-legit singing. That's the direction I thought I was headed in the first place, so for me, it's not so surprising.
3. What are one or two Broadway roles from already produced shows you'd like to tackle? I have a supreme fantasy and always have of playing “The Wizard” in THE WIZ. And I don't think it's at odds with the nature of the show at all for the big charlatan to end up being some white dude, especially right now in America: get what I'm saying?
4. I can't do an interview with you and not ask you about starring in the original company of "Jersey Boys" where you won the Tony Award for Lead Actor.
What is one of your most cherished memories from your time in the show? Meeting and making fans. There is nothing like bringing joy to people in a big way and inspiring them. There is nothing like projecting support for some worthy charity, for example, and watching your friends and fans converge to help. Ask Lin-Manuel -- it's like a Midas touch to enlist people who love what you're doing to support great things.
What is something you wish you got to do in the show that you never did? Tour the country when the show was still a big hit. You can maybe infer from my earlier answers that I had a real comprehensive knowledge of Broadway and its history when I was younger. I knew that during the Golden Age, stars of big Broadway shows would immediately bring their performances across the country. By the time JERSEY BOYS came around, though, how could you leave an audience of months to a year of ticket buyers bereft of the Tony Award winning cast they were so eager to see? It was untenable.
What did it mean to be a Tony Award winner in 2005 and 13 years later, what's your perspective on being a Tony Award winner? There are Tony Awards and there are TONY AWARDS. It has proven to be much more exciting to be a Tony Award winner for a now world-famous show than for a show that comes and goes in a season. It is a smaller club, and pretty mind-blowing.
Biggest difference between Jersey Boys Broadway and Jersey Boys Film (not counting the live aspect of Broadway)? In the Broadway show, the Seasons are dynamic MCs and narrators. With Frankie, especially, there's this "last man standing" dynamic. Even as his life seems to fall apart around him, he's a fighter, and he keeps pushing forward despite it all. You get this from the narration.
In the movie, Frankie's narration is gone. So you're looking more at the guy who's downtrodden, and understandably, because he's going through hell. As an actor, I already experienced the best of doing it the glitzy Broadway way; in Eastwood's version, I got to show the world who I believe Frankie TRULY IS: a guy with a great talent who has somehow always been simultaneously really down on his luck. There's a depression and confusion away from the stage.
For these last few questions, let's play with some song titles from a few shows you've been in/possibly could be singing from.
5. Of course, let's start with Jersey Boys. In that show you sang "My Mother's Eyes." What do you think you get most from your mom? Her eyes. I never knew her, she passed away when I was very young. But from photos, it's uncanny.
6. The Wiz. When you "Ease on Down the Road," what is something you have stopped carrying in relation to the lyrics, "Don't you carry nothing that might be a load"? This might be a scandalous answer, but as they say in Jersey, "who gives a shit?" Disappointments. I’m letting them go.
7. With Hair, how do you "Let The Sunshine In" during these dark times? Much like those hippies Hair portrayed, I'm similarly inspired by Eastern philosophy. I'm a practicing Buddhist in the Chinese Chan (Zen) tradition. I meditate and breathe and that really helps. There are many fewer "dark times" as a result.
8. In Jesus Christ Superstar "Jesus" sings "What's The Buzz?" So I ask, what do you have coming up that you can share? I'll be back in D.C. to play “Wolf Trap” in November. I love D.C.; it's been great to me. I have a full schedule of appearances coming up, which is so great. I have original music I've written with my music director, Tommy Faragher, who is a successful Grammy-nominated and #1 Billboard charting producer and songwriter. We get to take those original songs out to play. I write the lyrics.
And, strangely and happily, I have miraculous access in the political world that constantly surprises me. I've got a major life experience ahead of me in December, other-worldly, really. Stay tuned. I was an Obama political appointee and even with this sea change in politics, I'm still standing. That's been the overwhelming power of JERSEY BOYS. The music really brings people together across all divides.
More on John:
Film, stage and concert artist, John Lloyd Young, is a Tony and Grammy winner, multi-Platinum recording artist and Presidential Appointee. As the original “Frankie Valli” in Broadway’s Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Jersey Boys, John garnered unprecedented accolades from the New York and national media, going on to become the only American actor to date to win all four major Broadway Leading Actor in a Musical honors for a Broadway debut: the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Theatre World Award. John starred in Jersey Boys on London’s West End, and was hand-picked by director Clint Eastwood to reprise his role in the Warner Bros. film adaptation, becoming one of only a select-few actors in entertainment history to take his Tony-winning role to the big screen.
Over the years, John has sung selections from Jersey Boys several times at the White House, in the halls of Congress, and to Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes, Obamas, Bidens, Trumps, Pences and the Prime Minister and First Lady, Shinzo and Akie Abe, of Japan.
As a concert artist, John has taken his expertly-curated repertoire of classic pop and R&B to filled-to-capacity rooms, thrilling his audiences with a “disciplined one-in-a-million high tenor shading into falsetto that he can direct through the stratosphere” (The New York Times). He has played The White House, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Hollywood Bowl, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Mar-a-Lago, Clint Eastwood’s Tehama Country Club, New York’s Café Carlyle, Feinstein’s in NY and San Francisco, Radio City Music Hall, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and New Year’s Eve in Times Square.
John has appeared on Live with Kelly and Michael, The Today Show, Extra, Entertainment Tonight, NPR’s All Things Considered and Here and Now, Access Hollywood, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal and more.
John Lloyd Young’s five-star-rated solo album of classic R&B, My Turn..., debuted as a best-seller on Amazon. It remains a fan-favorite with several songs from the album requested at each of his live performances.
Appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities by Barack Obama, John was sworn in at the Supreme Court of the United States by Justice Elena Kagan. As a member of the Committee, John represented the United States on the first U.S. Cultural Mission to the Republic of Cuba, along with fellow Committee members Kal Penn and Alfre Woodard, guest artists Usher, Smokey Robinson, Dave Matthews, violinist Joshua Bell, playwright John Guare, U.S. arts officials, including the Chairs of the NEA and the Smithsonian Institution, and members of Congress.
A resident of Los Angeles, John was educated at Brown University and in Spain at the University of Salamanca. He knows fluent Spanish, conversational and written Mandarin, and sings in several languages, including Spanish, Mandarin, Hebrew and Italian. Trained by world championship title holders and Chinese Shaolin monks, John holds a brown-belt in Shaolin Temple-style kung fu, and is a student and practitioner of Chinese Chan Buddhism.
John ardently supports charities including the USO, amFAR and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and has been a member of the American Civil Liberties Union since 1995.