The Sounds of the Season
Broadway star John Lloyd Young to appear at Great Lakes Center for the Arts
By Ross Boissoneau | Dec. 17, 2022
For John Lloyd Young, Christmas and coziness go hand in hand. “It’s [being] warm, comfortable, safe at home with the fire roaring. Cocooning. Only those that experience winter understand.”
Another large part of setting the Christmas mood is classic holiday music. “As a child, I was so taken with the great vocalists: Mel Tormé, Anne Murray, Sinatra, Karen Carpenter. Burl Ives with that sonorous baritone. Beautiful singing, lush songs. That’s the inspiration,” he says.
Young, best known for playing Frankie Valli in the original Broadway cast of Jersey Boys, will be performing a holiday show at Great Lakes Center for the Arts Dec. 22. “John Lloyd Young: Heart of Christmas” will feature traditional favorites, including “Silent Night,” “O Holy Night,” “The Christmas Song,” “Joy to the World,” “White Christmas,” and many others.
Young has made his mark interpreting the music of the great doo wop-groups of the ’50s and ’60s, outfits like The Delfonics or The Stylistics, classic pop from the ’60s and ’70s like “Hurt So Bad” and “A House Is Not a Home,” and, of course, music by Frankie Valli. But his tune changes during the latter part of the year, when he has the chance to bring beloved holiday favorites to life for audiences. He says it is something he treasures. “I have a lot of opportunities to sing [music by] The Stylistics, The Four Seasons—this is an opportunity to come together … doing holiday music.”
While he’s the one onstage, Young says there is a true communal aspect to holiday performances, where the audience knows all the songs. “Everyone loves feeling warm and cozy. We come together to have that live experience.”
He says the holiday shows have become an even more treasured tradition in the wake of the pandemic, when people couldn’t gather together. “I felt coming out of the pandemic like this was comfort food—after such a harrowing experience, to hear these songs you’ve known forever. It’s a cocoon, finding faces who want to have a transformative experience. We’re breathing the same air. We’re all enjoying the music and the shared experience.”
From Broadway to Bay Harbor
Young originated the role of Frankie Valli in the original Broadway cast of Jersey Boys, garnering unprecedented accolades from New York and national media. He went on to win the Lead Actor Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Theatre World Awards, becoming the only American actor to date to win all four leading-actor awards for a Broadway debut.
He is the lead vocalist on the double-platinum, Grammy Award-winning Jersey Boys Original Cast Album and also played the role at the Piccadilly Theatre on London’s West End. Young was hand-picked by director Clint Eastwood to reprise his award-winning turn in Jersey Boys for Warner Bros. Pictures, becoming one of only a select few actors in entertainment history to bring their Tony-winning role to the big screen.
The Tony- and Grammy-winner has sung at the White House, the U.S. Congress, and to sold-out crowds at the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, and other venues across the country. He’s performed New Year’s Eve in Times Square and at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and he released his debut solo album of classic R&B standards, My Turn, in 2014.
Matthew Kacergis, the executive director of the Great Lakes Center for the Arts, says the chance to host Young for a holiday show was something he couldn’t pass up. “He’s admired and loved by so many. After Jersey Boys, he’s had an amazing career as a vocalist. I’ve wanted to bring him here for quite some time,” Kacergis says.
Even though the show will be just three days before the holiday, Kacergis expects strong attendance. “In a lot of major cities, folks have the opportunity to see The Messiah, A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker on Christmas Eve.” So if those in major entertainment markets can experience those shows right up to Dec. 25, why not here?
“I know our crowds really love Broadway. Folks are always excited to experience these shows,” Kacergis says. Combining that type of show with a holiday twist seemed perfectly reasonable, and Kacergis says ticket sales have been strong.
Young will be accompanied by a trio of piano, bass, and drums. Leading the way will be pianist Tommy Faragher, a Grammy-nominated, ASCAP Pop Award-winning music producer, composer, songwriter, arranger, and musician. He has served as Young’s musical director and producer since 2012.
Young says he is always eager to share the gift of classic Christmas sounds he grew up with. “I specialize in going down this lane, these songs and arrangements. I want people to…feel ease and comfort.”
And perhaps best of all, he hints that there’s no dress code. “Being so close to Christmas, I can guarantee you could roll out of the car in your jammies. I won’t judge you. We’ll all be at home together.”
Photo by Keith Bernstein