Press-Republican

June 20, 2014

Valli Boy

By ROBIN CAUDELL
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — “I’m shrinking, I’m shrinking,” was John Lloyd Young’s theatrical-debut line in Plattsburgh Summer Theater at age 7.

He portrayed the littlest Shrinking Witch in the “Wizard of Oz” directed by SUNY Plattsburgh's Dr. Charles Kline in August 1982.

Now, having already conquered Broadway, Young stars as Frankie Valli in “Jersey Boys,” a Warner Brothers Pictures release, directed by Clint Eastwood and opening Friday in theaters nationwide.

 

EARLY START

“John, actually, has always been singing since he was 2 years old,” said Gail Abrams-Young, his stepmother and the daughter of the late Dr. Irving and Adelaide Abrams of Plattsburgh.

“He just had a knack, and he just had a natural talent. My mother noticed that he had a natural liking for singing.

Abrams-Young plans to the see movie here in Plattsburgh and hopes the North Country will turn out to see “Jersey Boys” for an almost-native son.

 

BEST ACTOR

In the original Broadway production of “Jersey Boys,” Young starred as Valli of Four Seasons fame.

His electrifying portrayal earned him 2006 Best Actor honors from the Tony Awards, Drama Desk Awards and Outer Critics Circle Award. The same year, he was honored for Outstanding Broadway Debut from the Theatre World Awards.

 

LOCAL ROOTS

Young was born in California on the Fourth of July, 1975  to Col. Karl Bruce Young and Rosemarie Cianciola.

His birth mother died of cystic fibrosis when he was 2 years old, and he doesn't remember her.

"I do remember, though, when it was just my father and me, before he met the woman who would become the mother who raised me, before my younger sister, Gillian," Young said in his Tony acceptance speech.

"It was just the two of us, and he was my whole world. He was an officer in the Air Force, and I always wanted to be an actor, and that put us at odds at certain points.

"But my girlfriend Alison assures me that my struggles were probably harder on him than they ever were on me. So I am very, very proud to share this with my father."

His father was Strategic Air Command tanker-squadron commander at Plattsburgh Air Force Base.

Young’s final Plattsburgh Summer Theater role was in the “King and I,” which starred Ron Raines (“Guiding Light’s” Alan Spaulding).

Thespian pursuits for Young and his sister continued in a four-year stint in Omaha, Nebraska.

Then, the family was reassigned to Plattsburgh, where Young was active in the Plattsburgh High School Drama Club and hosted his own WCFE-FM Sunday show, “On and Off Broadway.”

 

GREAT WHITE WAY

1993 PHS alum, Young was a Rotary Club International exchange student in Caracas, Venezuela. He wrote monthly articles about his experiences for the Press-Republican.

“The Great White Way” was not unfamiliar to Young as family outings included Broadway shows.

At Brown University, he graduated with honors in Theatre Arts and relocated to NYC to climb his way to stardom line by line, note by note.

“He did a lot of Off-Broadway things,” Abrams-Young said. “He did a lot of readings. He did a lot of auditioning but he was an excellent, excellent singer naturally. The falsetto voice is very special. So, he has that. Not everyone has a falsetto voice. Not everyone can be Frankie Valli.”

 

CLINT EASTWOOD’S CHOICE

Young starred on Broadway in “Jersey Boys” for two years before relocating to Los Angeles.

Now in a cinematic adaptation, he reprises his starring role.

Many times, even though someone wins rave reviews on Broadway, an established actor will be chosen for the movie version of the role.

But Abrams-Young said Eastwood wanted Young to play the part he made famous.

Taking a strategy out of Meryl Streep’s how-not-to-be-typecast playbook, Young made his film debut in “Oy Vey! My Son is Gay!!,” portraying Nelson Hirsch, a Jewish North Shore Long Islander, who comes out to his parents, Shirley (Lainie Kazan) and Martin (Saul Rubinek), at a cousin’s wedding.

“I had been offered to audition for lots of different roles,” said Young in a 2009 Press-Republican interview before the movie’s Montreal premiere, which was his first.

“’Jersey Boys’ gave me the means to not have to say yes to every job offer. I wanted to find another character with dignity.”

 

DESERVED IT

The movie trailers captions __ It all started with a sound … that became a sensation __ aptly mirror Young’s rise.

At 38, he’s well on his way with a Sardi’s caricature, a role (Marius) in a stadium production of “Les Miserables” and recent appointment by President Barack Obama to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

At the 60th Tony Awards, he vied against Michael Cerveris, Harry Connick Jr., Stephen Lynch and Bob Martin for Best Actor.

“Harry Connick Jr. said to me at the Tonys later, ‘He really deserved it,’” Abrams-Young recalled.

Now, area fans that missed him on Broadway get to hear Young’s vocal prowess and witness his thespian magnetism for themselves.

 

Email Robin Caudell:

rcaudell@pressrepublican.com

 

IF YOU GO WHAT: "Jersey Boys," starring John Lloyd Young and directed by Clint Eastwood. WHERE: Cumberland 12 Cinemas, 18 North Bowl Lane, Plattsburgh, 324-3888. WHEN: 12:55 and 3:45 p.m. ($8) and 6:40 and 9:30 p.m. ($10.50).