BWW Interview: Tony Winner John Lloyd Young Gets Ready for an Epic, Sexy and Mysterious Return to Cafe Carlyle
Tony Award winner John Lloyd Young returns to Café Carlyle with an all-new show, February 19 to March 2. At this residency, he will perform an expertly curated set of rock and pop classics. From the raw emotionality of Roy Orbison the retro cool of 007, Young will bring the iconic room alive with a timelessness, mystery and warmth that hearkens back while heralding into the future and Broadway World's own Richard Ridge caught up with Young a few days before his opening.
You are returning to your residency at the famed Café Carlyle. What does this honor mean to you?
I saw Elaine Stritch's final string of performances at the Carlyle; I saw some of Eartha Kitt's final performances in and around New York. I visited with and watched and learned from Barbara Cook. I know the calibre of artists who have played this storied room. This is, by my count, my eighth residency since 2013. To be a contemporary Cafe Carlyle fixture would be an incredible validation that somehow I'm an artist of OUR times who plays one of the classiest rooms in New York history, one of a new generation of classic Carlyle singers emerging right under our noses, right now.
The Carlyle is such an iconic, intimate space. What is it like playing there?
My great-grandparents were immigrants through Ellis Island who literally helped build the infrastructure of this great city. To know that an institution that was vibrant during their adulthood is still a viable New York landmark they knew of that now their great-grandson gets to play is quite an astounding privilege.
This is a brand new show. What will the show consist of?
There's something so epic and sexy and mysterious about the Carlyle itself and this intimate Cafe. You can feel the ghosts and intrigue emanate from the walls. I always get an urbane, exciting 007 man-of-mystery feeling in this room. So this year, especially, I'm going to try to imagine myself into that milieu. There will be the great guitar twang and resonance of spaghetti westerns, the sensuality and danger of James Bond, the smoky mystery of Roy Orbison. Some Mandarin, right out of some spy movie. This is the vibration I'm excited to tap into this year.
You have one of the most sought after musical directors Tommy Faragher. Why do you think you work so well together?
Tommy is the steady calm to my emotional storm. And we both love interesting chord changes and exciting instrumentation. He's been involved with the David Lynch Foundation in real life, and we are both big fans of the Lynchian musical aesthetic, Tarantino, Morricone and classic R&B. Musically I think we're brothers from another mother.
You have the rare distinction of bringing your career changing Tony Award winning role of Frankie Valli in the renowned musical 'Jersey Boys' to the big screen. What did that experience and honor mean to you?
It was a way to take out to play deeper insights I had into the character I had played onstage more than 1,300 times. But onstage I was always limited to the script as written. Over the years, I got to know Frankie Valli better as a real-life person. Film is a much more acute psychological exploration just by its nature alone -- you see the actors close up. I was able to bring more of what I understood to be the reality of the man out for an audience to see. An actor onstage is always a distance away -- you can lose nuance that way.
You got to work with one of the greatest directors on that film Clint Eastwood. What did you learn from him that you use in your daily life as an artist?
Get the job done, and don't overthink it. He works fast. Don't get caught up with critics, they see things most audience members will never care about. Does your movie and/or performance capture the imagination? Like that minor controversy with a doll standing in for the real baby in AMERICAN SNIPER. Most people never noticed. It was the most successful box office hit that year. The "controversy" didn't matter. Films, for better or for worse, are what people take for history. It's the last word. I understood that the JERSEY BOYS movie, by nature of its being a movie, will be definitive, whether you like it or not. It's POWERFUL to make a movie. Clint as a Hollywood fixture and Hollywood at large understands this about itself. Getting the movie made and seen, period, is how you win the day. Clint's done that, what, 20-30 times as a director alone. Films are worldwide. You've got it made when you're exposed to that many masses of people. It's hard for theatre people, including myself at first, to understand the sheer magnitude of exposure international film provides. It took two years for me to play to the millionth customer of JERSEY BOYS on Broadway. Tens of millions of people, and still counting today, saw the JERSEY BOYS movie all over the world in just a few weeks. Why do you think Hollywood is all clamoring to get the rights to the HAMILTON movie? Power, exposure, legacy, history, MONEY, but also--the final word.
You tour the country playing some of the most prestigious venues to sold out crowds, do you enjoy bringing your music across the country?
When I was a kid, I dreamed of traveling the country and world, and I've always been fascinated meeting new people and being exposed to new cities and cultures. Performing for audiences all over the country and the world is the most enjoyable way to do this I could have ever wished for.
You have the most loyal fan base. They fly in to see you from all over the world. What do your fans mean to you?
They are a safety net. They are a grounding force when I'm playing a brand-new space, and it makes a great impression on a venue to have immediate sales if I've never played there before. I have a good relationship with my fans, so much so that I call them Friends, and I mean it.
Everyone wants to know if there will be a new John Lloyd Young album in the near future?
There will be a new album, and there is more than enough material for one. But I want to make it under the right circumstances with the right people. I am patient. I like to do things right, if I can help it. When I do things "wrong" it's usually on purpose to adjust expectations or create a spectacle. I am a measured and methodically patient person, there is very little I do publicly I don't plan, even the "disasters" are sometimes staged. Keep laughing, I planned it that way. Two thumbs up!
You use your celebrity to help better the world. How gratifying is that?
Some performers walk on stage with the attitude "here I am," others walk on stage with the attitude "there you are." I'm the latter. It's just a much more fun, interesting and rewarding way to make an impact than, say, running for office. Which I don't, by the way, rule out. Just not now. I've learned at the heels of some of the most impactful leaders, literally, of the world. You pick a lot up just by proximity. But I'm having too much fun as an artist. We have a much wider berth in many ways to help achieve objectives creatively and sometimes indirectly.
What are you looking forward to the most with returning to the Café Carlyle?
Making a splash.
For tickets, visit: https://www.cafecarlylenewyork.com/
Photo Credit: David Andrako