Age & Hometown: 32; Wallingford, PA
Current Role: A Tony-nominated performance as conflicted betrayer Judas Iscariot in Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Teenage Nightmare: Now that he’s a bona fide leading man, it's hard to imagine Josh Young as a character actor. But in youth programs like Upper Darby Summer Stage, that’s exactly what he was. “I was kind of a bad kid,” Young confesses. “Like, I would get stoned and then perform. They weren’t happy with me.” Predictably, his casting suffered. “I got parts like the Gryphon in Alice and Wonderland,” he says. “I was really fat at the time, and they put me in fishnets. They really hated me, but I deserved it.” Young's attitude shifted at 17, when a supportive teacher suggested he audition for the prestigious Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts, and he was accepted for both voice and theater. “That was a huge transition point for me,” he remembers. “I lost 100 pounds and embraced theater and music as what I was going to make for the rest of my life.”
Taking Care of Business: Young's experience as a musical theater student at Syracuse University was far from typical, largely because he joined a fraternity. “I knew that I wanted to meet girls, so I joined a fraternity and I did yoga,” he jokes. “It was the best time in my life that I would never, ever want to do again.” He broke into performing as a Busch Street Boy at Busch Gardens (“it’s exactly what it sounds like—we did covers of Backstreet Boys songs”), and four stints as Marius in Les Miserables. He credits an unsuccessful audition for A Little Night Music with ultimately getting him to Broadway in Superstar. “I wanted to give the casting director everything, so I spent weeks learning the cello,” he says. “They knew I was a hard worker and recommended that [Stratford Shakespeare Festival] see me for Che [in Evita]. I researched the hell out of it, as if I’d already gotten the role.” Which, of course, he did.
Still in Love With Judas: When director Des McAnuff tapped him to play Judas at Stratford, “I read everything I could about the gospels,” says Young, who was raised Jewish and had limited knowledge of the New Testament. “With Judas, there’s so much to sink your teeth into. I couldn’t ask for a better role to make my debut.” But his long-awaited Broadway bow didn’t go as planned, when he came down with a debilitating respiratory illness during press performances. “I thought, ‘OK, my career is over,’” Young says now. “For all I knew, they could’ve replaced me.” Though ill, he managed to perform on opening night. “I tried to put on a good face,” he says, “but I look at pictures, and it was bad.” Since earning a Tony nomination, Young has managed to put those unhappy days behind him. To top it off, he has the perfect Tony date: his fiancée, Alia Rosenstock. “We had one date and that was it,” the actor says with a smile. “I knew.”