BWW Interviews: JERSEY BOYS's John Lloyd Young

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"To be on the West End - that's fantastic."

John Lloyd Young is very happy to be in London, once more playing the role of Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys as it settles into its new home at the Piccadilly Theatre.

He says there are a few tweaks to the London production to make it understandable for a British audience. "That's the only adjustment - those internal cuts and remembering where they are!"

And he's noticed a slight difference in the reaction of those British audiences: "They don't have an instant shorthand. It's a slow-burn. By the middle of act one, when the group has become successful, we've got them, through to the end. They're a little quieter in the beginning. If a British audience is more 'come and impress me', then I'm so glad they've been impressed."

He's a busy man: prior to heading to the West End, he completed his album, My Turn, before being appointed to the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. The plan is to inject arts-based approaches to education into schools that need a boost - and the evidence suggests it improves discipline as well as academic performance.

"What's unique - we're committee members, we're volunteering our time," he says. "By involving people who are well-known, like Sarah Jessica Parker, like Yo Yo Ma, they are clear examples of the arts meaning something in our culture. It's more interesting than someone else saying the same thing. It's a great enhancement to the argument - that's what's really special."

And he's about to get busier still. Later in the summer his performance as Valli will be seen on the big screen, in the Clint Eastwood-helmed movie adaptation of the musical.

When he first heard about the project, he never thought it would be a stage star in the lead.

"I didn't want to resign myself to that, but I understood it could happen. But thenI thought - this is a very specific role. You can't cast a Hollywood actor with no resemblance to Frankie Valli in a movie; you can't have a tall redhead.

"So I dipped into my own reserve of Hollywood history, remembering the musicals I'd seen as a child. Some of the most searing and indelible performances are in the films where they cast the original Broadway star. I thought well, I hope they'll allow me to recreate the role on film. I have ideas. There's a lot we touch on that I understand where I'd go with it if I could go deeper. I understand this character in a way I can't show as much on stage - for example, the relationship of Frankie with his daughter. This is exactly what I hoped for."

He's obviously delighted to get the chance to star in the movie.

"It's so strange to be there at the beginning of a world-wide phenomenon. You see it grow from something you began. It was an uncomfortable prospect that this might be carried forward by somebody else! So I'm glad i don't have to know how that would feel!" he laughs.

He's full of praise for director Eastwood, describing him as the film's "secret weapon".

"He has fans all over the world who may have never seen a musical on stage, but they'll go to see one of his movies. He's intuitive and a smart guy. When he got attached to the project, he went to see companies around the States, to see what he was being asked to direct. He was in audiences and saw how they reacted to the show. The direction he went with the casting and the script was because he knew there was already a show that was working."

And he assures musical theatre fans: "Jersey Boys fans are going to be pleasantly surprised that they get something that has the essence of the stage show."

John Lloyd Young stars in Jersey Boys at the Piccadilly Theatre until the end of April.

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From This Author Carrie Dunn

Carrie is the UK editor-in-chief for BroadwayWorld. After spending her formative years reading books and ending up with a Masters degree in English literature from (read more...)