From beginning to end, John Lloyd Young's performance at the Café Carlyle was a love affair attuned to the Valentine's Day of your youth. "You're Just Too Good to be True," the Tony-winning original "Frankie Valli" from Jersey Boys crooned, to "How Can I Be Sure," followed by an homage to the room itself. Richard Rodgers lived here, Elaine Stritch still lives here, now it's "My Turn." Noting too the canvas murals by costume designer Marcel Vertes, who died in 1961, the dimple-chinned Young seemed to be pinching himself that he would now be working in such a swell place.
A love affair from that bygone era would have to be shaped by male vulnerability and, some quivering falsetto, evoking a time of making out against the hood of a parked car. Of the disconnect between that time and now, Young is self-aware. His patter has irony, which for this viewer, was all the more alluring. If you expose your humble beginnings, the audience will like you, he explained, and told about his first New York apartment, in Washington Heights, where he had a suitcase and a shower curtain so little heat he slept with boxer shorts on his head, "clean ones," he finished.
Offering "Only You" and "You Belong to Me," as the musical equivalent of comfort food, he had me. But, "now that we are sufficiently in love," he said, we need to break up and he went into "Hurts So Bad," "Since I Fell for You," and "Lonely Girl." Accompanied by a first rate ensemble: Gokce Erem on viola, Eddie Malave on cello, Eric Kalb on violin, Paul Socolow on bass, John Putnam on guitar under the musical direction of Tommy Faragher on piano, he covered such hits as "Show and Tell" and "Unchained Melody," plus numbers by Randy Newman and Roy Orbison.
You can be crucified for breaking convention, he said, dispensing with such clichés as walking off stage only to come back for an encore of "Hold Me" and "Let's Stay Together." He just went for it. I, for one, did not want the night to end. And as well wishers for opening night, such as Jersey Boys creator Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice, and Roger Rees came by, Young just said, "Isn't this a classy place?"
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.