14/09/2007 by Bob Verini for variety.com
Actors Fund houses showbiz legends
When one “Jersey Boy” visited the Actors Fund Home last year he discovered not just a nursing home but a repository of showbiz lore, a place where old can mingle with young.
That would be John Lloyd Young, specifically.
Young, the Tony-winning star of “Jersey Boys,” wanted “to do something of my own election for my community,” so he passed up the April 2006 MAC Award ceremony to appear at the groundbreaking of a Home expansion project.
“I spent the day there, meeting and talking to everyone: dancers, people who’d been in vaudeville … It was great to see the Actors Fund funds at work in such a beautiful way.”
Coincidentally, he encountered a songwriter whose work figures in his performance as Frankie Valli.
“Call me Miss Barbara Belle,” insists Barbara Belle Newman, Home resident and co-author of the ’40s gold record “Sunday Kind of Love” which Young sings nightly in a scene set — where else — in church.
Newman hears the “Jersey Boys” CD often in her residence area. She opines that Young “sings it very well. Of course, the song really belongs to Fran Warren.”
Actors Fund executive director Joe Benincasa says “There’s a national intergenerational interest” in Home visits though there’s no formal program to bring generations together.
“When John Lloyd Young comes out and visits residents, he’s truly interested in understanding the careers of people there, and what his arc in the business might be,” Benincasa says.
Since his visit, Young has been appointed, with “Young Frankenstein’s” Sutton Foster, as co-chair of the Fund’s national board of advisers.
He plans to return to the Home to perform a cabaret set for Newman and his other new friends.
Does Newman give counsel to the earnest showbiz kids who drop by?
“Well, there’s one thing I tell them: Believe in yourself. If you believe in yourself and your talent, that’s everything.”
And no, she hasn’t yet been to see “Jersey Boys,” but she hopes that an invitation will be offered.
“They better!,” she says.