June 22, 2006

JLY’s Days in Bellevue & Broadway

June 22nd, 2006

Stephanie Queen, staff writer of the Bellevue Leader says that before “Jersey Boys” Tony Award-winning leading actor John Lloyd Young landed a breakout role on Broadway and, before he was even just a struggling actor in New York City, John Lloyd Young was just a Bellevue (Nebraska) kid in the mid-to-late 1980s dreaming of becoming an actor someday.

He lived on 38th Street in Falcon Forest with a cornfield for a backyard in the mid-to-late 1980s. Young recalls that he and his friends used to bushwhack through the corn and go have adventures in the windbreak with their BB guns. Young refers to this time as his “Tom Sawyer period.”

Today, Young has traded cornfields for the skyscrapers of New York City and bushwhacking for acting on the Broadway stage. And as of June 11, his BB gun became a Tony award.

The star of the smash-hit Broadway musical “Jersey Boys,” based on the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ rise to stardom, spent four years of his life in Bellevue as a child when his family moved for the Air Force. He wanted to be an actor, even then. He’s been many places since those years but Young fondly calls his time in the Midwest “the happiest years of my childhood.”

Young grew up as a child of the Air Force. He was born in California and his mother, Rosemarie, died when he was two. His father, Karl, remarried and the family moved with the military, shuffling between Plattsburgh, N.Y. and Montgomery, Ala. The Youngs landed in Bellevue in 1985.

Young attended Birchcrest Elementary School for his fifth- and sixth-grade years and Mission Middle School for seventh and eighth. He said some of his favorite things to do were go to the Old Market and Westroads Mall in Omaha, go to Mangelsons at Halloween time for the “best makeup and costumes,” and eat at Godfather’s Pizza and Cascio’s Steakhouse.

He got hooked on acting when he saw a production of “Annie” on Broadway at age six. Later that year, Young began his own acting career in a community college’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

When the Youngs moved to Bellevue, he continued pursuing acting opportunities, performing for three years in the Omaha Community Playhouse’s “A Christmas Carol” children’s chorus, another production of “The Wizard of Oz” at the Emmy Gifford Children’s Theatre and a Neil Simon play at Mission. Thinking back to those days, Young said,

“Omaha is a great place to learn to be an actor. The people involved with community theatre are really passionate about it.”

Young discovered early on that he enjoyed entertaining an audience. After his family left Bellevue in 1989, he continued honing his craft in community theatre until he graduated high school in New York. He applied to Creighton University, because he enjoyed the Midwest so much, but eventually attended Brown University, receiving a liberal arts degree.

After college, Young set out to make a career in the theatre. In New York, Young searched for acting jobs wherever he could find them. He earned roles in “The Drawer Boy,” “The Summer of the Swans,” and “The Chosen,” all off-Broadway plays. He also had a television role, on an episode of “Law and Order.”

Regarding his days as a struggling actor, Young said,

“I don’t know any actor who is successful who isn’t going out there and making the world come to them. They can’t sit around and wait for it to come to them. I think I have a reputation as someone who is always knocking on the door, who wants to work. It has to be that way.”

Young eventually landed the role of Frankie Valli in “Jersey Boys,” an original musical that hadn’t seen the light of day yet.

What appealed to Young about “Jersey Boys?” He told Queen,

“I knew it would be a big hit. Everything that I’ve ever had a personal success with, it either makes me cry or I feel excited about it. Every single time it’s happened to me in the past, the show has been excellent. This one made me feel both.”

Young considers himself more of an actor than a singer, so it was a bit of a shock for him to play the lead singer of the legendary singing group. He said,

“I’ve been doing plays for years and years. I never expected to do a Broadway musical. I’m an actor first, a singer second. It was a surprise for me to find myself the lead role in a big musical. This was new territory.”

To prepare for the role, Young trained with a vocal coach to prepare him to sing in Valli’s trademark falsetto voice, and he researched the Four Seasons, even going to see Valli in Las Vegas before the show opened.

“Jersey Boys” opened in November 2005 to rave reviews for the show, cast and Young’s flawless portrayal of Valli.

As the theatre season moved on, Young won several awards, including the 2006 Theatre World Award, the 2006 Outer Critics Award for outstanding lead actor and the 2006 Drama Desk Award for outstanding lead actor.

Then, last week, Young won the 2006 Tony award for actor in a musical last week for his portrayal of Frankie Valli in his Broadway debut.

At 30, he is among the youngest of performers to win the Tony award in that category. Young said,

“Only 60 people have won this award. It was at the end or the height of a long career in musical theatre. I don’t even know if I’ll have a career in musical theatre. I don’t know what a Tony award so early can mean.”

Young said he never works toward getting awards but merely great roles. He noted,

“You can’t be a successful actor working toward awards. The goal needs to be doing excellent work. It’s seizing great roles. You have to go out there and fight for them. When you get great material like ‘Jersey Boys,’ the next step is to do excellent work.”

Young is scheduled to stay with “Jersey Boys” until at least October. He believes there will be a touring version of the show coming in December, and possibly other opportunities with the show. After that, he’s not sure what he wants to do or if his status as a Tony-winner will impede his career in any way.

He said he wants to continue doing plays, pioneering and originating new roles because he loves working with the playwrights to make a role fit him and discovering an audience for the first time. Young said he has no intention of letting his Tony award change anything about the way he looks for roles. He ponders,

“I don’t know what it’s going to mean. I have to carry myself like a Tony-winner now, whatever that means. Especially in New York, you gotta put yourself out there. I’m still a starving actor at heart.”

1 Comment »

  1. wow! that was some interview! very interesting!

    Comment by Jersey Girl — July 4, 2006 @ 8:07 pm

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