An Interview with John Lloyd Young: On Being Frankie Valli and Education

Jun 16, 2014 by

An Interview with John Lloyd Young: On Being Frankie Valli and Education

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales , New Mexico

John Lloyd Young is currently on Broadway in New York City playing the role of Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons in the hit Broadway musical “Jersey Boys”. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons are one of the most successful rock groups of all time. The Broadway play takes us from the early years of the Four Seasons when they were cranking out hit after hit (Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like a Man, Save it For Me to Grease, Oh, What a Night and Who loves You?)

The play “Jersey Boys” is truly an epic story of American success- four guys from New Jersey becoming one of the greatest rock groups of all time.

And, the same success has come to John Lloyd Young in his role of portraying the voice, the sound, and the person of Frankie Valli. (It should be noted that this interviewer HAS met Frankie Valli and I have found him to be a most cordial, congenial, friendly person who “hangs around “after concerts to sign autographs, records, and chat with the fans).

In this interview John Lloyd Young discusses his success and the role that education, the school library, teachers, mentors and LEARNING has had in his life.

1. You have literally gone from being an usher in a Broadway theatre to one of the hottest stars on Broadway. To what do you attribute your success?

NEVER. GIVING. UP.

2. How has your education prepared you to take the lead in a Broadway show?

My education didn’t teach me so much how to do things as it taught me how to go about LEARNING to do things. I was surrounded by very capable and highly individualistic students in high school and at Brown University, where I went to college, and I really think that in the ideal educational environment, you learn from not only the teachers, but from each other. You put a lot of highly motivated self-starters in a room together and great things happen. You emerge from an environment like that with the expectation that great things should happen for you and your peers and you have a foundation for how to go out into the world and whip your goals into submission. My education really gave me the confidence to shoot for the moon, so when I seized the role of Frankie Valli and it was mine, I already had the confidence and experience to do what was necessary to make the most out of it.

3. What kind of theatrical or musical training have you had? How well has it prepared you to take the lead in a major Broadway show?

I have been acting since I was a little kid. I studied Theatre Arts in college, but by then, I had already been acting for a long time; it was an enhancement of what I had learned up till then, and I have learned through doing, since. An audience will indicate to you exactly what you are doing wrong and doing right; it’s so important that performing for a paying audience be a part of anyone’s training, I couldn’t overemphasize that. To train for the role of Frankie Valli, I had to work very meticulously with my voice teacher, Katie Agresta. I worked with her for four months straight, before rehearsals, then all through rehearsals and previews, so 6 months by the time we opened. I still see her once a week, at least, for maintenance.

4. Many of us (at least of MY generation) “grew up” listening to the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

What type of music did you listen to in your youth?

Well, I was a kid in the 80s, so I listened to Michael Jackson, the very earliest rap (Run DMC), Lionel Richie, George Michael, Madonna, Duran Duran. I still like the music that was popular when I was a kid, but I also discovered Sinatra and 40s standards during that time, through my grandparents, and that has been my favorite music ever since.

5. Many students are somewhat discouraged in their local schools today. What kind of advice would you offer them?

The library is your best friend. If you’re not getting what you want out of your education, go there and discover things yourself! Also, seek out a teacher who you really connect to and whose lessons really speak to you. You might not be interested in biology, but your biology teacher might be the most interesting TEACHER. Teachers aren’t there to just teach you their subject, they’re there to be resources for you and teach you how to be a PERSON. If you find a mentor in one of your teachers or counselors or coaches — whatever — it can make all the difference in how you feel about your education, and yourself. Teachers are older, they’ve been around longer, they might just know a little more about life! They care about students, that’s why they became teachers (and for the summer vacation — kidding). So don’t be afraid to reach out to them for guidance or advice.

6. The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (Jersey Boys) is literally a story of achievement, and accomplishment in America . How comfortable are you projecting this mes sage and image of success in a Broadway show?

I am extremely proud to portray a real-life American dream story every night on a Broadway stage.

7. How tough is it to “be the voice and stage presence of Frankie Valli”?

It was tough to rehearse the show. Like I said, it took 6 months of daily effort to become Frankie Valli. Now, that’s all behind me, I’ve done my job and done it well, and becoming Frankie Valli every night is almost as easy as slipping on a jacket. I just walk onstage and there he is.

8. Have you ever met Frankie Valli and what was his reaction to “Jersey Boys”?

I’ve met Frankie many, many times, and he is so proud of Jersey Boys, especially how the audience loves him (or me as him!) and his story.

9. How did it feel this past year to win all of the various awards for the show? (Jersey Boys won Four 2006 Tony Awards- for Best Musical, you won Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, and Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical and the show won for Best Lighting, Sound Design and Outstanding Broadway Musical and the list goes on.) How are you feeling?

Well, considering that I was so scared in the beginning, wondering if I’d even pull it off, to be sitting here, less than a year later with multiple awards on my shelf including a TONY??

I’m so proud, so pleased, so grateful, and so relieved that I didn’t crash and burn!

Interviewers Comments: I have found that John Lloyd Young reiterates many of the most salient points of E. Paul Torrance- those being, that to find success, students have to find a great teacher and attach themselves to that person, that the library is often one’s best friend, and that persistence and perseverance is critical for success in school and in life.

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