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Photo credit @ David Andrako

Review: John Lloyd Young, Crazy Coqs

Being a theatre reviewer you sometimes find yourself in rooms you might not normally visit. I'm routinely at a puppet show or in a children's theatre – but Broadway cabaret evenings are few and far between. However, I recently did a Q&A with John Lloyd Young, the multi-award-winning performer who established the role of Frankie Valli in smash hit musical Jersey Boys. He’s worked with the best in the business, including alongside Clint Eastwood in the film of that show! In the interview he seemed like a really nice guy, so I popped down to see him performing at…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

Breath-taking talent and exceptional versatility combined with a playful, entertaining personality make for a superb evening of songs from the shows.

Being a theatre reviewer you sometimes find yourself in rooms you might not normally visit. I’m routinely at a puppet show or in a children’s theatre – but Broadway cabaret evenings are few and far between. However, I recently did a Q&A with John Lloyd Young, the multi-award-winning performer who established the role of Frankie Valli in smash hit musical Jersey Boys. He’s worked with the best in the business, including alongside Clint Eastwood in the film of that show! In the interview he seemed like a really nice guy, so I popped down to see him performing at Crazy Coqs and check…

This is an exquisite capsule of a venue, and Young matches it perfectly, arriving in a sharp tux, wearing shades and a playfully cheeky grin that set the tone for an excellent evening of classic numbers from stage shows. The intimate room is full of love, with an expectant, excited audience welcoming him joyfully.

Accompanied admirably by pianist Zoe Carole, Young presents a varied and interesting selection of songs, which showcase his enormous talent and track neatly alongside anecdotes about his life and success in musical theatre. There’s a song here for everyone tonight. My favourites include heart-melting renditions of ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ and ‘Till There Was You’. He’s a smooth Billy Flynn from Chicago singing ‘All I Care About is Love’. And with superb 60s throwbacks from Jersey Boys he totally lights up the room, getting us all singing along enthusiastically to ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ and ‘Sherry Baby’. At the opposite extreme, a searingly tender version of ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from Les Misérables threatens tears. This guy really can do it all – and do it exceptionally, with a breath-taking range and flawless versatility. I kept thinking, what must it be like to exist with so much talent in you? It’s as if he can barely contain it; having to reframe it constantly in a fluid, shape-shifting set that simply thrills the captivated audience.

The stories he relates about his musical theatre background take us from childhood encounters with the stage through to appearing at the Hollywood Bowl. They’re enlightening, giving glimpses behind the scenes of the industry. However, his delivery isn’t always perfect; he occasionally refers to notes to keep on track. There’s also some confusion about whether his heritage is Welsh, English, British or some combination of all of those. Maybe he is just trying to woo the audience? Whatever the case, jokes about Boots the Chemist land very well, and a slight clumsiness is forgiven as he additionally celebrates family, friendship and mutual support. Indeed, this slight suggestion of flawed humanity further endears him, in a way. The immense, room-shaking talent he displays is juxtaposed against it and underscored by the humility with which he describes an extraordinary dream achieved.

Some of the audience interaction tonight is perhaps a bit Vegas-cheesy, as he makes a point of travelling the room kissing the hands of the ladies (and indeed one very keen bloke sitting at the back), but it’s all done in playful good humour. The demands on him to personally engage must be a bit like being forced to kiss your aunty at a family reunion, but he gives of himself generously and with amity, appreciative of his fans.

This special occasion offers a remarkable chance to be intimately close to stunning, world-class ability, but more than that, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to encounter the man beneath it, who comes across as nice as I’d suspected. Young effortlessly charms us with huge talent, but just as much with his delightful natural self.


Music direction by: Zoe Carole

This run is now finished. You can learn more about John Lloyd Young here.

About Mary Pollard

By her own admission Mary goes to the theatre far too much, and will watch just about anything. Her favourite musical is Matilda, which she has seen 16 times, but she’s also an Anthony Neilson and Shakespeare fan - go figure. She has a long history with Richmond Theatre, but is currently helping at Shakespeare's Globe as a steward and in the archive. She's also having fun being ET's specialist in children's theatre and puppetry, and being a Super Assessor for the Offies! Mary now insists on being called The Master having used the Covid pandemic to achieve an award winning MA in London's Theatre and Performance.