Entertainment » Music

Tony-winner John Lloyd Young gives back

by John Amodeo
Tuesday Sep 21, 2010

How does an actor find his voice? Not only his singing voice, or even his oratorical voice, but his artistic voice. In 2004, John Lloyd Young, then 29, and working mostly in regional theater, auditioned for the role of Frankie Valli in the pre-Broadway run of Jersey Boys at the La Jolla Playhouse, and was not cast.

What a difference a year makes. In Spring 2005 for the Broadway production, he was not only cast, but he was singled out by New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley as "a star-in-the-making." Brantley went on to say, "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 ... Inhaling the cheers of the crowd, Mr. Young as Mr. Valli glistens with that mix of tears and sweat, of humility and omnipotence, that signals that a hungry performer’s need for approval has been more than met."

Not only did Jersey Boys go on to win four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, but Young became the first actor in history to win all four major theater awards for Best Actor in a Musical for a Broadway debut: Theater World, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and of course the Tony.

Giving back

But Young believes in giving back. He saw that the Broadway community was dedicated to charity work, such as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and amfAR, and discovered that Jersey Boys gave him a voice. "I realized I could solicit tens of thousands of dollars in my spare time," Young marvels. "If you could motivate other people to give, that’s a magical thing to me, to know that through all this good that came to me, working hard holding up a show, I was in the exciting position of being able to contribute something important to people who need help."

Moving to LA, after two years on Broadway as Frankie Valli, Young continues his charity work often appearing in all-star cabaret benefits for AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), an organization Young favors because they provide services directly to the people who need them. "Charities like APLA are feeding people," notes Young, with some concern for the toll the current economy is taking on them. "These days, they are freaking out because people aren’t contributing the way they used to. It’s a no-brainer to continue to do this work out here as I live in LA. If I could draw 10 more people than would give otherwise, then I would do it." To that point, Young, in a rare East Coast appearance, will make his solo cabaret debut in a benefit for amfAR on Saturday, September 25, as part of their annual Bucks County Cabaret Series, this year performed in a converted barn on a private estate in Pipersville, PA. Young will be accompanied by Michael Orland, pianist, arranger and associate musical director for the hit FOX-TV series American Idol.

Leading up to this, Young’s multi-faceted life (he studied theater arts at Brown, and Spanish Literature at University of Salamanca in Spain) has taken a number of unexpected turns, including such firsts as performing at the White House in 2006 ("At least they sat me next to a Democrat."), performing at Lincoln Center, training in the martial arts, launching a career as a sculptor, playing a gay lead character in his first feature film, and becoming first guest star on the hit FOX-TV series, Glee.


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