New York City, NY

Catching Up With Tony Winner John Lloyd Young And The Story Behind His Upcoming Live Vegas Valentine Concert

Jeryl Brunner

Magical experiences are all around us. The key is to notice them. To borrow from poet W.B. Yeats “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

When Ben Brantley, a theater critic at “The New York Times” saw the show “Jersey Boys,” he discovered that magic in John Lloyd Young who played Frankie Valli, the lead singer of The Four Seasons.

John Lloyd Young (Photo by Rodney Fleming)

“Mr. Young has crossed the line from exact impersonation into something more compelling. It's that sort of melting from perfect wax effigy into imperfect flesh,” wrote Brantley at the time. Then he went on to say, “Like Mr. Valli, Mr. Young has a quirky authenticity that can't be faked or learned. His intense belief in his character shimmers like sunlight amid the fluorescence of “Jersey Boys.”

Young would win the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Theatre World Award for his multi-faceted raw performance. He is the only American actor to have received these four major awards for a Broadway musical. (He also won a Grammy.)

Even during these complex times, Young’s light continues to shimmer and shine. On February 12 he returns to The Space in Las Vegas for a live concert John Lloyd Young’s Vegas Valentine. In this live-streamed pay-per-view concert he will sing beloved ballads including “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Unchained Melody,” “Since I Fell for You,” and My Eyes Adored You” plus many more love songs.

The 75 minute performance which begin at 6:00 PM PT/9:00 PM ET will be available OnDemand for one week following the live event. There is even a virtual VIP after-party which includes a talk-back and grand-finale performance.

“This afterparty will be unlike any other. We conceived of the afterparty to take the place of my very popular meet and greets, which of course are not possible under the current circumstances. In this one, I will sit at a table with a bottle of wine and take phone calls,” says John Lloyd Young. “It will be like a speed-dating session, one caller after another. Who'd have thunk you wouldn't have to be without a date on Valentine's Day 2021?”

John Lloyd Young shared more.

Jeryl Brunner: Can you describe how singing makes you feel?  

John Lloyd Young: I'll answer this by way of anecdote: I was with some friends on their boat. They docked it on a pier and there were probably a dozen other boats docked. One of our friends had a karaoke setup that he liked to put together and play up on the boat. They asked me to sing a few songs. I always hesitate out of context like this, because I am really a very shy person.

Pay me to do it onstage, and it's my job and that's OK. Ask me to get up at Thanksgiving to sing at the table, and I'm likely to want to hide UNDER the table. Anyway, I capitulated this time and sang a couple songs. All these strangers from the other boats started to walk down the pier and congregate around me. This is how singing feels to me. I'm always a little hesitant. And I'm always astonished at its effect on others.

Jeryl Brunner: What was one of the first times you performed on stage?  

John Lloyd Young: I was a little kid with a lot of energy who really loved singing and movie musicals. The local college where I lived in northern New York State had summer productions and they'd cast kids from the community. I was a munchkin in The Wizard of Oz. (I was a 6-year-old munchkin in real life!)

 Jeryl Brunner: What inspired you to a concert around Valentine’s Day?

John Lloyd Young: Before the pandemic hit, I had played The Space to live audiences probably half a dozen times over the years. It's a home-away-from-home for me and my music director, Tommy Faragher.  The Space owner, Mark Shunock, reached out right away when the pandemic hit with the idea of doing livestreams. It has been so rewarding and special in the sense that we haven't had to lose momentum with our fans and followers and have been able to maintain some tiny sense of normalcy in this mess we've been in.

Every livestream plays out just the same as if we were all there together again in that room. It's fun to have the cameras to play to and to know our fans, friends and newcomers are just right there on the other side, from anywhere in the country and the world. Valentine's Day is a specialty for me. I think I haven't had a Valentine's go by without a concert performance somewhere in the world for almost ten years running.

Jeryl Brunner: How did you pick the classic love songs you will be singing at your concert? And can you share, even a hint, what people can expect?

John Lloyd Young: Most songs pick me. It really has worked that way over the years. If I find myself arrested by a lush melody or irresistible lyric, and then I have to sing the song. So that means, at Valentine's Day, lush, sweeping ballads like “Unchained Melody,” songs of desire like “Ebb Tide,” “Since I Fell for You,” “Can't Take My Eyes Off You,” “My Eyes Adored You.” It'll be a luscious musical menu. 

Jeryl Brunner: What has kept you creatively nourished during the pandemic and how are you staying sane?  

John Lloyd Young: I have a very active visual arts career. The pandemic has opened up a lot more time for me to spend in the art studio, which is usually limited during periods of a lot of traveling and touring. So 2020 and 2021 will have ended up being a really prolific time for me. My pieces look like they could have been taken from Liberace's pantry. So I guess it's pretty Vegas-appropriate. See? Sometimes all the pieces just really fall together. Even when the outside world seems to be falling apart.

Courtesy John Lloyd Young

Jeryl Brunner: What is the ideal day off for you now?  

John Lloyd Young: Because quarantine can be so oppressive, for me, being someone who lives in Los Angeles, a short road trip can really help let off the steam. I just took a short trip to Joshua Tree National Park, and it was expansive and beautiful and solitary. A perfect Covid-era getaway.

Jeryl Brunner: Where were you in your life when you were cast as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys?

 John Lloyd Young: I was on a steady rise through the motions a young actor goes through on their way to a successful career in New York. I was getting cast in bigger and better productions and had begun to get some really great reviews. I was still returning to survival jobs between my growing successes on stage, and so it was an exciting but also frustrating and insecure period. With “Jersey Boys,” I knew this was a huge opportunity and also that I had the skills to really make a great impression. It was the torturous singing and Broadway-level dancing (I am not a trained dancer) that had me pretty scared. So I celebrated for like two seconds and then got to work training for the hardest professional ride of my life.

(Photo by Rodney Fleming)

Comments / 0

Published by

New York based journalist who has written for Forbes, Parade, InStyle, National Geographic Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and The Wall Street Journal. Author of the book "My City, My New York, Famous New Yorkers Share Their Favorite Places" and podcaster, ("When Lightning Strikes"). I cover the arts, theater, entertainment, food, travel and people who are motivated by their joy and passion.

New York City, NY

More from Jeryl Brunner

Comments / 0