John Lloyd Young, Tony-Award winner and musical wonder of the Broadway never-ending (and well-deserved to be!) musical hit Jersey Boys, enthralled the crowd at The Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater Friday night with a spattering of songs of all styles. From the auspicious start of the show, when Young bounded out on the stage wearing an elegant tuxedo, singing the infectious and buoyant “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”- it was evident that Mr. Young was at his most beguiling singing the upbeat romantic songs from Jersey Boys.
Young projects an aura of seductive, urbane confidence and thus quality shot out like a laser beam to a very enthusiastic, nostalgic audience that, indeed, seemed composed of fervent and adoring fans. He plays solidly to his base and he incorporated interactive elements that were disarming such as walking out into the audience and serenading female members and encouraging everyone to sing while singing the popular “Sherry.”
Mr. Young was ably accompanied throughout by his Music Director, arranger and pianist Tommy Faragher – who also sang delightfully, as he sang several duets very effectively with Young. Bob Dodelin on Bass, Jim Roberts on Guitar and Frank Carroll on Drums all aided immeasurably to the musical arrangements of the concert.
Young’s cover of Cole Porter’s “In the Still of the Night” was intriguing and he gave it all he could with an attempt at Porter’s sophisticated and somewhat elusive style.
“Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney was a brave stab but this is a difficult song to sing. Young’s bracing tenor (with “falsetto-like” shadings) is fascinating to listen to (I would make the analogy that Johnny Mathis has a voice that is fascinating in itself but does not necessarily work with every song).
Most of the concerts and cabaret produced in the Barbara Cook’s Spotlight Series usually involve interesting patter and anecdotes – and, unfortunately, the patter here was mostly puerile and antiseptic, with such comments as, “I love Washington, DC,” “Everyone in Washington is important,” and “I love America.”
When paired with the right material, John Lloyd Young is a fine musical talent and cabaret artist.
Young’s encore –Bacharach and David’s “A House is Not a Home” is another example of a song that was simply beyond Young’s emotional depth. None of the forlorn devastation of a breaking heart was inherent in the rendition. This song is a challenge for the most polished singers.
Much more effective was Young’s superb rendition of Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Loving You.” He brought out all of the feeling of the song with a voice that seductively caressed every line.
Another standout was Young’s superlative cover of the beloved song “Unchained Melody,” As Young sang with pleading urgency, “I hunger for your kiss —“and other such endearment, the effect was palpable. The resonance of Young’s voice was enthralling and it merged beautifully with the superior and complex musical arrangement.
Perhaps the most stunning song Young covered was “Hey There, Lonely Girl.” Young sang the song in a fervent theatrical and, concurrently, almost conversational style that was highly engrossing. This song was delivered in almost “falsetto-like” tones that fit the mood of the song perfectly.
The songs “Show and Tell” and “Hurt So Bad” were very charming and effective standouts as well. When Young is coupled with the right material that is suited to his maturity and vocal style he can, indeed, work wonders with his material. An appreciative audience of fans can attest to that fact!
Running Time: Two hours, with no intermission.
John Lloyd Young performed on Friday, November 20, 2015 at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater as part of the Barbara Cook’s Spotlight series. For future Kennedy Center events go to their events calendar.