by Edward Kliszus
I first heard and saw John Lloyd Young in 2005 in his acclaimed role as Frankie Valli in Broadway’s Tony award winning production of Jersey Boys. In 2014, I saw his reprise of the role in Clint Eastwood’s film production Jersey Boys, a biopic on The Four Seasons 60’s pop band. My expectations were high for Young’s cabaret appearance. A cabaret setting is particularly challenging as it immerses the artist in an intimate, face to face setting with a live audience. There’s no studio engineer for retakes or digital pitch adjustments – no pit orchestra between the stage and audience.
In this opening night of Young’s eighth residency at Café Carlyle, he presented a brand new show and was accompanied by world class musicians Tommy Faragher, music director, album producer, arranger, song writer, and keyboards – Paul Socolow, Bass – Eric Kalb, Drums – Stew Cutler, Guitar.
Perched in my end seat at the bar, I situated myself for a great view as I enjoyed delicious dinner fare from the Café Carlyle menu. Anticipation grew as the musicians came to the stage to check their equipment, tuning and instruments.
House lights dimmed as Young approached the stage looking sharp in a black satin suit, black tie, and crisp white shirt. A beguiling, gentle, and familiar musical intro began for Young as he set the mood with I Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You. Many swooned as Young displayed his flawless range, finesse, and poignancy. For the rest of the evening, his poise, confidence, and communication encouraged the the audience to participate and experience each song with him. He was charming, confident yet self-effacing, and the boy next door. At ease with introductions, humor, audience banter and anecdotes.
Seamlessly departing from his opening Frankie Valli tribute, Young presented a rich diverse program revealing his personality, versatility and depth. He took us back to 1966 with Sonny Bono’s song Bang Bang, performed as an ethereal, irreverent poem. More 60’s romance and nostalgia came with the James Bond theme You Only Live Twice set in a blues feel. This was another example of how Young showcased the richness and beauty of his sound in the mid and lower ranges of his tessitura.
In a delightful tribute to Roy Orbison, Young performed Only the Lonely and Say No More. He deftly navigated the characteristic challenges of pitch, range and flexibility required to adequately express Orbison’s heartfelt mien.
To come was the grace and beauty of Rogers and Hammerstein’s I Have Dreamed, the profound sadness and longing of Haung Ke Cheng’s Ming Ri Tien Yo, If Tomorrow Comes, original songs written by pianist Tommmy Farragher and Young with excellent guitar and keyboard features, an energetic rock ‘n roll arrangement of the Supremes’ song You Keep Me Hangin’ On featuring excellent background vocals by the band. In Spanish, Young beautifully crooned Gabriel Ruiz’ Usted, a muy romántico canción exuding amorous passion. If that wasn’t enough, Young gave us Leon Russel’s heartthrob A Song for You famously recorded by Karen Carpenter decades ago.
After some other surprises, the show closed with a medley of Frankie Valli hits including Working My Way Back to You and Sherry.
This evening Young affirmed his stature as an exciting, gifted, empathetic, and expressive artist. He handled his varied and challenging repertoire with ease and delivered the poetry of the music. He moved from nostalgia to just plain fun. Young delivered something for everyone and everybody. Few could resist the delightful, heart tugging fare.
Robyn and Radha seated next to me at the bar said it best, “Opening night was totally fabulous!”
John Lloyd Young is live at Café Carlyle through March 2. WITH Tommy Faragher –Music Director, Album Producer, Arranger, Songwriter, Keyboards; Paul Socolow –Bass; Eric Kalb –Drums; Stew Cutler -Guitar
Reservations can be made by phone at 212.744.1600 or online via Café Carlyle or Ticketmaster. Performances will take place Tuesday – Saturday at 8:45pm. Weekday pricing begins at $95 per person / Bar Seating: $75 / Premium Seating: $145. Weekend pricing begins at $125 per person / Bar Seating: $100 / Premium Seating: $175. Café Carlyle is located in The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel (35 East 76th Street, at Madison Avenue).