John Lloyd Young

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John Lloyd Young

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, July 6, 2016

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Photo: Maryann Lopinto
Photo: Maryann Lopinto

Finding success in portraying an icon can be tough on an actor. John Lloyd Young, playing Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys, not only won a Tony, but a slew of other awards for this Broadway debut. Shucking the Valli association has been an artful process for the actor, who seems to have found a balance in developing his own rock star persona while keeping the Four Seasons association very warm. Young is a showman. He enters theatrically, in shades—ultra-cool, but generating a warm, friendly presence at the same time.

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He bounds to the stage and unleashes a doo-wop “Star Dust” in the manner of Jackie Wilson or Billy Ward. It turns out Young is very good at singing in the style of a particular artist without being a mimic, illustrated in “Ooh, Baby, Baby” (à la Smokey Robinson) and “Say No More” (recorded, but never released, by Roy Orbison; it came out after his death). With “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” (a hit for Mel Carter) Young descended into the audience, debonairly moving through a crowd of completely exhilarated ladies.

Young is an accomplished actor and he applies this training to a sense of drama in many of his renditions, such as “My Prayer” and “Hurt.” His timing and enunciation are impeccable, as is his phrasing, often the kind one hears in a jazz singer. Young has excellent vocal control, and blissfully is one of those performers who knows how to modulate, forgoing the anthem-like repetitiveness of power-singing. He tackled the vocally challenging “Unchained Melody” with ease, demonstrating a sure vocal range. Of course, there was one Four Seasons song, “Sherry,” in which the famous falsetto was present. Playing to the audience, Young gleefully invited all to sing along. On a more serious note, he sang the intense and deeply moving “Manifesto” in Spanish and, in Mandarin Chinese, the haunting “Ming Ri Tian Ya.”

The singer works as a double act with Musical Director, pianist and composer Thomas Faragher, who also provided back-up vocals. Young sang three numbers they wrote, the first two also in collaboration with Adam Zelkind: “Almost There,” “Alone Together” and “Slow Dawn Calling.” For encores, Young offered “Maybe I’m Amazed” and an impassioned “To Make You Feel My Love.” Throughout the set, Young’s easy narrative revealed him to be a soft-spoken gentleman with a wry humor and intellectual bent.

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And although no stranger to major venues, John Lloyd Young, with his understated yet palpable charisma, can count his Feinstein’s/54 Below debut another conquest.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.