John Lloyd Young

4/11/2005 by Katie Riegel for hwww.broadway.com

Age: "I'm in my late 20s."

Currently: Making his Broadway debut as international singing sensation Frankie Valli, the familiar voice behind chart-topping hits like "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry," in Jersey Boys.

Hometown: "I grew up all over the place but I would call it Plattsburgh, New York."

Heart and Soul: Young isn't just a charismatic performer with a stellar voice–the actor is the proud holder of a degree from Brown University. "I went to school just to become a person," he explains, "even though I knew I wanted to be an actor. I really think if you're not an interesting person when you approach a character, then you're just technique and no soul. I've always been moved the most by actors who have a real depth of soul and a lot to bring to a role."

Pounding the Pavement: After moving to New York, Young worked his way up through the ranks of the theater scene with roles in numerous regional and off-Broadway productions, but most have been straight plays: "I haven't been a musical theater actor professionally until now, which doesn't mean I haven't been a singer my whole life because I have. The projects that have found me have tended to be plays, and I think that's just because I put the role first and not necessarily the show. I think that of musicals—especially the big, splashy ones—require an actor that's also part cheerleader too, and that's really tough to do if it's not something that really grabs you and your heart's not in it."

Vegas, Baby: Though he auditioned, he didn't land the part of Frankie Valli in the pre-Broadway run of Jersey Boys, but Young was certainly up for the task when he received the call a year after his first auditions to headline the show on Broadway. He says that the role was "an easy fit" from the very beginning. "The physical things–my stature and the way I can sing—were in the bag." But he also did an immense amount of research to get into character, including a long lunch with another original Four Seasons member Bob Gaudio, immortalized in the show by Daniel Reichard, where he picked Gaudio's brain about his famous cohort, and he also hopped a plane to Las Vegas only weeks after being cast to quietly catch a live performance by the legend himself.

Stay Dry: The Ivy Leaguer's strong work ethic came into play when he began training to play Valli–and training, he emphasizes, is the best word to describe it. "If you know anything about musical theater, this sort of singing…there's really no precedent for it,” Young says. He describes finding the signature Frankie Valli falsetto as “like having an attic in your house that you've always neglected, but it's always been there. And then you remodel it and it becomes your favorite room in the house. The minute that I got the role I had about four months of lead time that I had to start rehearsals and I started giving that attic room a fresh coat of paint!" He doesn't "touch a drop of alcohol" or caffeine, gets lots of sleep, and eats food, "right out of your first-grade nutrition handbook," but doesn't blink an eye at the sacrifices because they keep him on stage for Jersey Boys' exuberant audiences every night.

A Legend Among Us: Young didn't actually meet Valli until months after his Vegas trip, when the singer popped in on a rehearsal unannounced. "He did give me advice but it went in one ear and out the other because I was just so shell-shocked that he was about to watch me do an imperfect performance because we were still in a rehearsal studio under fluorescent lights," he laughs. “And as it turned out, they sat him three feet away from where most of my show happens, which was a real test of my will. But I got through it. He did come back and see a preview, which was delightful, because then we're under lights, we're in costume, we've rehearsed it and we're giving a show that we're proud of. And he lead a standing ovation after ‘Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," which was very gracious of him."

Keep Cool: As for the inevitable Tony buzz that comes with a high profile role like his, Young tries to keep level-headed. "I'm smart enough to realize that it's a small pool and that there are a finite number of Broadway shows that come in and that if you're in a lead role, doing a good job…that there are a limited number of people in lead roles on Broadway," he laughs, trailing off. "But it's not about that for me. It really is about the regimen and keeping up the show to give a good performance for each new audience, which is an exciting thing because these audiences are so excited to see us. The rewards are already here because I'm getting to do what I love. I'm playing a real person on Broadway and doing stuff that I really believe in. I feel completely satisfied."

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