February 7, 2006

John Lloyd Young’s Journey from Omaha to Broadway

February 7th, 2006

Omaha World-Herald staff writer Bob Fischbach provides readers with a glimpse of John Lloyd Young’s childhood in Bellevue, Nebraska, where his acting ambitions and dreams began, his seven years as a struggling actor, and his Broadway debut playing Frankie Valli in this season’s megahit, Jersey Boys.

Young says his acting ambitions began in the late 1980s when he appeared in The Wizard of Oz at the Emmy Gifford Children’s Theatre and in A Christmas Carol at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Thinking back to all of the places Young lived with his family as they followed his Air Force father’s career, he tells Fischbach:

“We never lived in entertainment capitals like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, Omaha was the closest I got to being able to fully realize my ambitions as a kid. It had lots of opportunity, acting-wise.”

It was in Omaha, Young said, that he decided showbiz would be his life. After earning a liberal arts degree at Brown University in Rhode Island, he immediately headed for New York. Reflecting on his seven years as a struggling New York actor, Young says:

“I was flying in a holding pattern, circling Broadway for years, and finally I got clearance to land.”

What Young landed was the opportunity to play legendary singer Frankie Valli in Broadway’s smash musical, Jersey Boys, the gritty, blue-collar tale of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ turbulent climb to the top of the music charts. Upon its New York opening in November, the production and Young drew unanimous raves.

In fall 2004, Young was one of four finalists to play Valli in Jersey Boys. But Director Des McAnuff cast television actor David Norona to originate the role at the La Jolla Playhouse. Young went back to work on his craft. An immediate smash, Jersey Boys saw its San Diego-area run extended three times. When it transferred to Broadway, Norona bowed out for personal reasons. Young got a callback from McAnuff.

McAnuff says that over the year since his first audition, Young had improved vastly, working not only on his singing, but his dialect and came into the audition looking like Valli. Ninety seconds into the audition, McAnuff said, he glanced at the show’s co-author, Oscar winner Marshall Brickman, and smiled. “We knew we’d found our boy.”

From the moment he was cast, Young trained every day for four months before starting rehearsals. He swam daily to build his lungs and breath support. He listened to Four Seasons songs on a loop for three months straight, watched footage of Valli performing and to Las Vegas to see him in concert. Since Young had no dance training, he also worked with a choreographer for a month.

Young, who admits to being in his late 20s and who shares Valli’s Italian-American heritage sees similarities between his life and the life of the man he’s playing on Broadway eight times a week:

“The great thing about this character is that he’s close to being a version of myself as a struggling actor for seven years. Frankie Valli is a fighter. He started with nothing. He had no resources, no foothold. He had to have persistence and grit.”

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. | TrackBack URI

Please leave a comment