It’s no wonder John Lloyd Young was cast many moons ago in Jersey Boys to originate the role of Frankie Valli, in the process becoming the only American actor to win the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Theater World Awards for a Broadway debut. He has one of the most mighty high tenors in all of musical theatre, paired with a falsetto which perhaps surpasses even Valli’s own in sheer power. He’s back at the Café Carlyle, where he just opened a new show for one short week.
Charismatic and still boyishly handsome in his mid-40s, Young still sings the Valli songs that made his name (he knows where his bread is buttered), but the remainder of his present act is satisfyingly eclectic. He burns through “Show And Tell”, the 1973 Jerry Fuller hit made famous by Al Wilson. He positively floats away in his version of The Stylistics’ “You are Everything”, paying homage to another great falsetto singer, Russell Thompkins, Jr. The evening’s most surprising number: “Ming Ri Tian Ya”, a Mandarin Chinese soundtrack ballad, telling a tragic story of love thwarted by death. Just the kind of “big sing” this son of Irish and Welsh melodrama loves to sing. Young, pardon the phrase, kills it. (He will be alternating it with other non-English songs throughout the run).
The only other musician on-stage, on piano and keyboards, is Tommy Faragher, a veteran songwriter (Taylor Dayne’s “With Every Beat of My Heart”) and Grammy-nominated producer (Glee‘s “Teenage Dream” featuring Darren Criss). He and Young wrote the break-up ballad “Cold Dawn Calling” – Young’s lyrics are not only emotional but also artfully wrought, and he sings them with an extra bit of heat. Faragher has a solo spot, doing a heartfelt cover of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me”. He does a more than creditable job, but I wish Young had sung backup on the call-and-response chorus. After all, Cooke’s backup singer was none other than the legendary Lou Rawls.
Young deliveres every note of every song with sophistication and passionate musical precision. He possesses an affable, assured presence, and displays a droll, disarming intelligence in his patter. Young relates “you never know who you are going to run into at the Carlyle Hotel,” revealing that Faragher had found himself at the bar sitting next to none other than Sir Paul McCartney. Young then launched into a blazing rendition of McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed”. And maybe I am. Highly recommended.
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.wordpress.com.