John Lloyd Young: The Original Jersey Boy Gets Real

After playing Frankie Valli more than 1400 times, John Lloyd Young is out to prove this 'Jersey Boy' has a lot more to offer.

What you need to know
  • John Lloyd was one of 16 to resign from the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities when Trump refused to condemn a white supremacist rally
  • He won a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical in 2006 for his debut performance as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys
  • The established actor and singer has also been commissioned to create art for Spago restaurant in LA

In August 2017, John Lloyd Young resigned from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s failure to comment on the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I didn’t want to resign,” Young told ten daily when we spoke to him in New York in May. “[But] just because my political party isn’t in power right now, it doesn’t mean I take a four-year break of being an American leader. It wouldn’t have made sense to be the only person standing.”

Young has earned his place as a leader. But the 42 year old will perennially be known as a "Jersey Boy" -- and that's okay with him.

He played the role of Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys on Broadway more than 1400 times.

"Jersey Boys is such a juggernaut that even if I go to my grave not having been associated with anything as salient, it is a privilege of a lifetime," he says proudly.

Young had to audition seven times for the role that would see him win a Tony Award. Ironically, when Clint Eastwood decided to direct a film version, he only had to see Young once on stage before casting him in the 2014 movie.

Jersey Boys tells the (almost) true story of how four hooligans from New Jersey formed The Four Seasons in between jail time and trouble with the Mafia, eventually landing a place into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Young accepts his 2006 Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys. Image: Getty

The musical ran on Broadway for 11 years and still continues with revivals running around the world, including in Sydney.

"It gave me the life that I dreamed of having so I will never ever be tired of talking about it," Young says.

But he isn't happy resting on his laurels, and stepped up to the challenge when Barack Obama appointed him to the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 2013.

Young relished his role of bringing art programs to underprivileged children and took the job seriously until he reluctantly resigned with 16 of the 17 other members in August 2017.

Young attends the TurnAround Arts Artist Reception in Washington DC. Image: Getty

Still passionate about politics, Young continues to work with Washington on philanthropic endeavors and isn't afraid to add his voice to the growing number of celebrities supporting the #MeToo and #Time'sUp movements.

He was so frustrated with what he was witnessing in the entertainment industry that he once considered retiring from public life but chose to "stay and fight," Young tells ten daily.

"People better clean up their act because there is a whole generation now of people on my side of things who are empowered to talk and people will believe us.

"I haven’t been sexually assaulted by a lascivious producer but I have been deeply disrespected by them because it’s endemic and now we know how endemic it is."

Young is passionate about using his public platform to spread messages he believes in.

"I think it’s important if you’re a feminist man to step out and be a leader in whatever groups that you have the privilege of engaging with," he says.

Young visits Broward County, Florida, Walker Elementary School for Turnaround Arts, President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Image: Facebook

Young has toyed with the idea of a career in politics: "I could see myself running for office if there were a group that needed protection and I felt I could do something for them."

But for now he is sticking to what he does best -- singing.

Young has the type of confidence on stage that can only come from years of perfecting his voice on Broadway and London's West End.

"If I’m confronted with a vocal challenge, I’ve probably dealt with it before because, with eight shows a week, there’s nothing harder," he says, referring to his run in Jersey Boys.

He recently performed his album of covers My Turn from beginning to end flawlessly in New York, and included the Frankie Valli hit Can't Take My Eyes Off You. 

"There are worse songs that can follow you around," Young told the delighted audience.

He ended the night with an original song Slow Dawn Calling, which he said would appear on his yet-to-be-recorded new album.

Audience members Ann Boyer and Cynthia Bambace have seen Young perform over 100 times collectively and can't wait for the next performance.

“We don't get bored because every show is different, you can see how magnetic he is and you understand why he is a Tony winner," Boyer says.

Bambace who has followed Young's career since she met him at the Jersey Boys stage door in 2005 adds that it's more than Young's voice she admires “He is a true advocate of the arts, he’s comfortable advocating what he believes in and that’s a wonderful quality to have.”

Young performs his album My Turn at Feinstein's in New York May 2, 2018 . Image: Nadine Carroll

Winning a Tony for a debut performance can leave some actors with limited room to grow: "Yeah, now what?" Young laughs -- but whatever his next move is, his dedicated fans will follow.

Young hopes to tour Australia, with the Adelaide Cabaret Festival on his "wish list", but otherwise plays his cards close to his chest.

"John Lloyd Young is still here and hasn’t expired yet," he says.

"I have other things to bring to the table besides singing and dancing on stage."

READ MORE: Too Good To Be True: Backstage With The Jersey Boys

Contact the author: ncarroll@networkten.com.au