15 Questions in 15 Minutes with John Lloyd Young

Known and loved by fans everywhere for his multi-award-winning portrayal of the Four Seasons’ lead singer Frankie Valli in the original Broadway musical and Warner Bros. movie adaptation of Jersey Boys, John Lloyd Young has exponentially multiplied his Warholian “fifteen minutes of fame” as a concert and recording artist, thrilling audiences and listeners with his expressive tenor and flawless falsetto, and his personally curated repertoire of classic pop, R&B, and Broadway show tunes.

John Lloyd Young (right) and the Broadway cast of Jersey Boys, 2005. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Among his many notable credits, Young has played Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The White House, the US Embassy in Finland, The Hollywood Bowl, Clint Eastwood’s Tehama Country Club, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, and New Year’s Eve in Times Square. He has also appeared regularly at such famed nightclubs as Feinstein’s at Vitello’s in LA, The Space in Las Vegas, and New York’s Café Carlyle and 54 Below.

Along with his work on the stage and screen, he is a talented fine artist, who creates original contemporary rhinestone embedded SOUPerstar portraits inspired by Andy Warhol’s iconic Campbell’s Soup Can, including one of President Obama that will join the collection of the Barack Obama Presidential Library in Chicago. In addition, he has been a member of the American Civil Liberties Union since 1995, and his extensive charity work includes frequent appearances with and support of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, amfAR, AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang, and the USO.

John Lloyd Young, Barack Obama Soup. Photo courtesy of the artist.

This coming weekend, Young returns to NYC for a six-night engagement of his latest cabaret concert, John Lloyd Young: Mostly Soul: Beloved Hits from Motown to Broadway, at 54 Below. The in-person performance before a live audience will also be livestreamed via BroadwayWorld Events for one night only on September 1, so followers throughout the country and the world won’t have to miss JLY, accompanied by music director Tommy Faragher on piano, interpreting the greatest hits of favorites like Little Anthony and the Imperials, The Platters, Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Luther Vandross, and, of course, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

I was very happy that the ever-in-demand JLY graciously agreed to take our monthly Pop quiz of quick questions and answers during his time in New York, which includes a sold-out concert in the Adirondacks at Old Forge’s View on Thursday, and a busy week of shows at 54 Below beginning on Saturday.

  1. What the most fabulous thing about performing at 54 Below?

JLY: The community feeling of being in the center of Broadway – not only what’s already happened, but what’s coming up. They call it “Broadway’s living room.”

John Lloyd Young at 54 Below, 2018. Photo by Stephen Sorokoff.
  1. What three emotions do you feel when you’re on stage?

Tension. Passion. Intention.

  1. What’s your food or drink of choice on the 54 Below menu?

Not when I’m on, but I always like to get a Gibson from the bar, with Hendrick’s gin. And I like the soups they give me – they’re good for a singer.

  1. What three things do you always have in your refrigerator?

Iced tea, Calabrian peppers, and vegan butter. 

  1. Do you have one favorite Motown group or artist?

Smokey Robinson.

  1. Is there one specific Jersey Boys song that you never tire of singing?

“Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

John Lloyd Young (second from left) and the Broadway cast of Jersey Boys. Photo by Joan Marcus.
  1. Aside from Jersey Boys, what’s your all-time favorite Broadway musical?

The Wiz.

  1. Which song are you most looking forward to performing in the upcoming show?

“You Are Everything” by The Stylistics. It’s one of my newer ones. I finally got it integrated into my voice, and it’s ready to fly.

  1. What’s the most memorable reaction you’ve ever gotten from an audience member?

It’s an amalgamation – a series of flashbacks of famous people jumping up and cheering for me after I sang “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” The first one that comes to mind is John Lithgow, and also Bruce Willis, and other celebrities giving me a standing ovation.

John Lloyd Young. Photo by David Shoukry.
  1. What’s your first creative memory?

Pasting those dry pasta alphabet letters on construction paper, making construction paper art.

  1. At what age did you first realize you could sing falsetto?

As an early teenager, when my voice started changing and I could still sing like Michael Jackson in The Jackson 5; I could still sing in that key. Later as an adult there was a parallel with Frankie Valli, who used to imitate the female jazz singer Rose Murphy, in her key, with a kerchief over his head. There’s a song that I used to sing in the same key, by a former soul and Broadway singer – my Rose Murphy – and I’m doing it for the first time in this show. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so I’m just giving you a little teaser here.

  1. What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

I’m a journaler. I like to go into a café, get a cup of coffee, and write in my journal. I do it all the time, and I love doing it!

Art by John Lloyd Young. Photo courtesy of the artist.
  1. What is about Andy Warhol?

It’s the picaresque quality of the work and the mischief of the artist. He holds a mirror up to society, observing our mundane life. His Soup Can was ridiculed at the time, but in art history, artists painted still lifes of what they ate for lunch, and that’s what he did in his time; he ate Campbell’s soup and he painted it. He also saw what was coming, and maybe even brought us into it.

  1. What three words would you use to describe yourself?  

Thoughtful. Integrity. Uncertain. In Camelot, King Arthur says, “Only a fool never doubts.”

  1. What’s the best thing about being famous?

A feeling of not having to prove things as much, the established fact of having ability and talent; you can relax a little.

Many thanks, John Lloyd, for making the time to chat. It’s always a pleasure to catch up with you and to see your outstanding ability and talent back in NYC!

Photo by Alex Hoerner.

John Lloyd Young: Mostly Soul: Beloved Hits from Motown to Broadway plays August 27-September 1, 2022, 7 pm (doors open at 5:30), at 54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $75-155, plus fees and a $25 food/beverage minimum per person), call (646) 476-3551, or go online. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination and a valid photo ID are required to enter the club. The closing performance, on Thursday, September 1, will also be livestreamed through BroadwayWorld Events (and will not be available on demand afterwards); for tickets (priced at $25, plus a $3.50 ticketing fee), click here.