Archive for August, 2012
The Midtown Men are in Houston, Texas for the Labor Day weekend, mixing their awesome sixties sound with The Houston Symphony. If you are in town to see them, there is no shortage of things to do and places to visit. After all, Houston is home to many cultural institutions and exhibits, which attract more than 7 million visitors a year to the Museum District. Houston also has an active visual and performing arts scene in the Theatre District and offers year-round resident companies in all major performing arts.
I wanted to get an “insider’s” take on hot spots in Houston, so I asked my 26 year old niece, Lindsay (who lived and worked downtown for a couple of years) to name a few places to eat and visit. Off the top of her head, she rattled off many great ideas:
For eating and drinking, and I quote: ”An amazing grocery/eatery - Central Market; Little Bigs for sliders; coffee at Black Hole; nice Mexican brunch at Tilas; super chill coffee and late night eating/drinking at Brasil; fancy bar with fancy drinks - Anvil; beer garden – Ginger Man; your Greek fix at Niko Nikos and Barnabys; Crescent City beignets are great; and a big fat kolache at the Kolache Factory …What was the question again?”
It’s too bad she didn’t get out much while she was there!
Category: Next Stop
On Friday, August 31, THE MIDTOWN MEN premiere the symphonic version of their 2012/2013 “Sixties Hits” tour.
This highly anticipated three night run with the Houston Symphony has me curious about the logistics of such an undertaking, and The MEN were kind enough to answer a few questions regarding this “uncharted territory”:
The Midtown Club: The Houston shows will feature an 85-piece symphony for the first time. How do you prepare for that?
The Midtown Men: It’s a new frontier with a symphony behind us. We’ve had a blast working with our arrangers (Grammy and Emmy award-winner) John McDaniel and(composer/pianist) George Maurer, and the great Conductor of America’s premier symphony, Michael Krajewski.
TMC: Can you tell us how it works? Does it change your normal set?
TMM: We are headlining, but we are excited to share the stage and musical landscape with something bigger than the four of us. We picked our favorites from our tour sets and added a new one from the mad genius behind the wall of sound, Phil Spector.
TMC: You usually blow into town, do a sound check, and are good to go. How much rehearsal is required for this type of show?
TMM: We are rehearsing a couple of days…bringing our band and the symphony together for the first time and hearing our charts played full out for the first time.
TMC: Houston is an amazing city with so much to do and see - will you have a chance to enjoy it?
TMM: So much is happening for the group right now, so we are resting physically and vocally and focusing on the business.
TMC: You’ll be almost a week in the same place,that has to be a nice change of pace.
TMM: It’s very strange. We thought we’d make a trip to the airport and go through security just to keep it moving!
If you’re in the Houston area this Labor Day weekend, don’t miss the chance to see what is sure to be an amazing show!
Some tickets are still available – click here for more information.
The Midtown Men officially kicked off their 2012-2013 concert tour at the Paramount Theatre in legendary Asbury Park, NJ on Saturday night, August 18. And from the reaction of first-timer Matt Philbin, who won tickets from The Midtown Club, the show was a huge success: “The Paramount Theatre was packed and people were dancing in the aisles. If there’s a concert coming to your town, don’t miss out!”
Saturday night’s show was the climax of a few very exciting days for The Men, beginning on Thursday morning with a hugely successful appearance on Good Morning America. Their Facebook page was ablaze with comments from across the country by people who were blown away by their performance. It was such fun to read the reactions of “new” fans experiencing The Men (and their entire band) for the first time.
(The Midtown Men performing California Dreamin’ -which was not their featured song- on GMA)
But the fun didn’t stop there. On Friday morning, Christian, Daniel, Michael and Bobby visited the set of Good Day New York (view clip below), where, although the medley they performed was the same as GMA, the vibe was quite different. As expected, The Men were clad – very sharply – in amazing HUGO BOSS suits, which did not go unnoticed by the anchors! And without the distraction of a live audience, you were able to focus more on these four handsome men and their amazing harmonies. Another home-run performance.
How could it possibly get any better than two stellar performances? I don’t know how they do it, but their third appearance in two days was, to me, the best of all. On Friday afternoon, NY Live welcomed The Midtown Men into the studio for a terrific interview. It was fun to hear all four men chatting comfortably with the three hosts, and Bobby Spencer was his crazy, funny self and kept the ladies highly entertained. Add to this yet another fabulous suit and an amazing a capella rendition of “Dawn”, and you have an unforgettable Midtown Men experience.
The Midtown Men cap off a couple of AMAZING days with the launch of their 2012-2013 National Tour in historic Asbury Park, NJ tonight! What a great opportunity for concert-goers to make a day of it at the Asbury Park Boardwalk. And what advice can I give? Enjoy the beach, use plenty of sunscreen, eat, drink, play games, people-watch! And then cap it all off with the best concert you’ve ever attended. Enjoy.
Click here for tickets .
Category: Next Stop
8/15: Four Seasoned Pros Hit the Town
“Sherry.” “Candy Girl.” “Walk Like a Man.” “Dawn.” “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”
We know ‘em as canonical catalogue classics from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the Garden State streetcorner-serenade city slickers (and Belleville’s answer to The Beach Boys?) about whom native Jerseyans can tend to be as proprietary as pork roll, pizza and pumping gas (not).
For a whole millennial generation of Broadway babies, however, these awesome poptunes — instantly ID’d through their clanking, thumping beat and the sci-fi falsetto beamed in from somewhere east of the final frontier — are the stuff that drives Jersey Boys, the jukebox juggernaut that became the hit of the 2005 season — and granted its original New York cast (including John Lloyd Young, the Tony winner who recently announced his return to the role of Frankie) the Vallidity of the real thing.
A few years back, four “seasoned” vets from that Broadway cast — including Christian Hoff (a 2006 Tony winner as Tommy DeVito), Daniel Reichard (who played the group’s songwriting mastermind Bob Gaudio), J. Robert Spencer (who portrayed Nick Massi) and Michael Longoria (who took over as Frankie Valli after originating the show’s part of young Joe Pesci) — got together for a touring project that would find them expanding on their 1960s pop bona fides, by tackling a bonanza of Billboard-toppers from the pre-Woodstock era.
Originally dubbed The Boys in Concert, the allstar act hit a serious snag in its momentum, when a legal challenge by the producers of Boys forced a name change before more than an initial handful of gigs were booked. Since rebranded as The Midtown Men, the guys retook to the road last year, and recorded a platter of Sixties Hits that finds them looking beyond Jersey to the exotic lands of Motown (Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar”), SoCal (The Mamas and the Paps’ “California Dreamin”) and the UK (The Zombies’ “Time of the Season”). This Saturday, August 18, the Men for All Seasons are joined by their seven-piece band for an Off Broadway/ On Boardwalk concert at Asbury Park’s Paramount Theatre.
Produced by Sammy Boyd, the 8pm event will dedicate portions of proceeds to the (recently relo’d to Asbury) Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth & Middlesex Counties — and, as per the specs of the settlement, it will NOT be a performance of, or in any way connected to, the smash musical that gave these four singing actors their big break.
UpperWETside talked to Hoff — a busy character actor, narrator and vocal artist who actually got HIS first big break as the young voice of the Hanna Barbera toon Richie Rich! — in the middle of a tour schedule that will take the Midtowners from Green Bay to Asbury to Missouri, with big-time New York TV ops along the way. Let’s hang on…
upperWETside: When we first became aware of your act, through our meeting and talking to Michael Longoria a few seasons back, we understood that you guys were originally being billed as The Boys In Concert — but the JERSEY BOYS people put a quash on that in court. Coming as it did so early in your collaborative career, how did the whole lawsuit thing serve to crystallize the concept of what you were doing? Did it change things much from what you were doing at the outset? And where does the MIDTOWN MEN name come from anyway?
CHRISTIAN HOFF: It’s an easy jump from being Boys to something else — and we weren’t boys anymore, so the Midtown Men name reflected our hardworking, middle class roots; commerce and art…and it referred to where we all first met, in midtown Manhattan.
The whole lawsuit experience served to bring us together as people and as artists. Any differences we may have had just fell away. We were fighting for our lifeblood; our right to perform in the style that we were known for. The whole thing was very high stakes — but it was never personal. Our position was that we just wanted to entertain, and bring these songs to life.
So the four of you control your own collective brand?
We’re all equal partners in the show…which can be about the perils of democracy on the one hand, but also about how much we behave as a family. We get to argue over everything from the horn arrangements, to the PR, and the type of socks we’re wearing. But, we’re the kind of trained entertainers who can sing through fatigue, sing through anything…and everything that we’ve been through has been a learning experience.
I’m hoping you’re all in agreement about continuing on with those 60s sharkskin suits. You guys look real slick on stage, although I’m sure you’ve all sacrificed a degree or two of comfort for the team…
We did a gig in Delaware where it was about 90 degrees, with 85 percent humidity…you know it’s hot up there when the color of your suit changes from light blue to deep purple. But we enjoy yukking it up in those suits, you know…something about wearing those clothes keeps you focused, keeps you in the period. There’s a certain gravitas to it, like wearing the uniform of a great ball team.
With the necessary disclaimers that the Midtown Men show is not JERSEY BOYS — and with the implicit understanding that your act attracts a lot of its audience from the many thousands of JERSEY BOYS fans out there — how much of what you’re doing in concert is you being the Actor, or you being the Singer?
The show that we’re doing is great because it allows you to hear our ‘rock’ voices. And as an actor, I was hired based on my ability to bring a character to life, to play a real person. We’re all actors, and the musicians that we work with understand how we feel about it…we’re used to working on Broadway, with all the multimedia aspects, the sets and costumes. Between the four of us, we’ve done over a thousand performances on Broadway — and we’re on track to do over 140 gigs this year. We go into a show like the Super Bowl, where you know the plays going in, and now you get to execute it in real time.
But the bottom line is that this is not a tribute act; it’s not the four of us acting in character…it’s about our sound and the music that we love, how we connect to it, and how that transmits to the audience. Working together for as long as we have, we have fun trying something new…and we can still pull off some incredible things; very in the moment, but still prepared.
With that in mind, I wanted to ask whether you’re constantly tweaking the set list of the show; whether you had any new, or new-old, material that you were trying out on tour. Any surprises in store for the Paramount?
We do adapt the show as we go along. We need to ask ourselves, when we’re kicking around a particular song to introduce into the show, does it resonate? How does it fit in with the show?
It’s fun to try something new…we just finished an arrangement of the Tina Turner song “River Deep Mountain High,” which we rehearsed when we were in Wisconsin. And when we do GMA we’ll also do this thing with ABC.com; a nine-minute Motown medley where we perform seven great Motown classics.
We’ll be doing that one at the Asbury Park show…and if you’re wondering how we pick just seven, we each start with our favorites, then we bring them to the table as a quartet, then bring them to the band — with the ultimate goal of performing them in front of a live audience. We whittled down a list of 20 into 15, then 10, and then 7.
I’m particularly interested in how you came to integrate The Zombies’ “Time of the Season” into the act…it’s a pretty intriguing choice, with a jazzier kind of sound that kind of pointed the way toward prog rock when it came out.
Daniel fell in love with the Zombies song, which absolutely fits my voice…there’s a cool vibe to it; very different from the other things we’ve been doing. The band really has fun with it, too…from the moment the audience hears (imitates the song’s familiar bass-and-percussion intro) they’re into it.
Of course you’re still doing a healthy amount of Seasons stuff, but have you deeper into their catalogue; checked out some of the obscurities and noble experiements? Not that I’m suggesting you perform the entire GENUINE IMITATION LIFE GAZETTE album…
Like so many groups that existed for such a length of time, they left a lot of masterpieces, and some stinkers as well. But they, Bob Crewe, Bob Gaudio, really stretched their wings, took a lot of chances. And I love ‘em all.
Any plans to record a followup album yourselves? And what might you do differently than on the first Midtown Men album, if you had your druthers?
The first album was done on the fly, in chunks — we’d have one day off and come to New York, hole up in the studio for the day and duke it out. The four of us would literally be listening to mixes while we were traveling in the car, on the plane, at the airport. It would be the only time and place where all of us would be listening to the same thing, on the same device, the same speakers.
For next year’s record, I’d like to try a different sort of approach…it would be great to do things completely old-school, with all the musicians in one place at one time, so that everyone performs with the awareness of the other people around them. And you’d hear the room.
That’s what I love about listening to a phonograph record, too…you hear the room; the whole listening experience is different depending on the record player, the needle, the place where you’re doing the listening. The minute the needle drops, you’re on a journey. I have a 17 year old son who agrees with me completely; who’s really into vinyl records!
That kind of sums up the attitude of the band also…we’re analog champions in a digital world!
Switching gears here, I understand that when you’re not onstage or on camera you’ve been maintaining a pretty happening career as a voice actor — and that you hold the Guinness World Record for highet number of different voices done for a single project (the project was the audiobook of producer Ed Feldman’s TELL ME HOW YOU LOVE THE PICTURE, for which Hoff performed as some 241 different characters)…
It’s fun for me to bring characters to life; it’s part of just being light on my feet, being a jack of all trades and skillsets and mindsets. And I’ve been doing it since I was the voice of Richie Rich in the cartoons…I worked at Hanna Barbera, where I’d hear people like Chuck McCann, Frank Welker doing dog voices; walking around hearing all these voices for The Flintsones, Jetsons, Scooby Doo up and down the hall!
I have to tell you, the same year that I was up for a Tony I was nominated along with Jim Dale in the same category. And that was around the same time that I got the world record for the voice project, which prior to that had been held by Jim Dale, for his recording of The Lord of the Rings. At the Tonys I joked with him that ‘I got you beat on that voice thing, too’ — and of course I never even prepared a speech for the possibility of my winning Best Featured Actor.
But as far as winning awards, breaking all-time records…none of it beats the fact that you’re allowed to do what you love to do. And occasionally you get a kiss on the cheek; you get to cross the finish line and break the tape!
Tickets for the August 18 performance by The Midtown Men are priced from $39 to $79, and are available by calling (732)897-6500, or visiting Ticketmaster. You can catch Hoff and company on ABC’s Good Morning America this Thursday, August 16; The Men are also scheduled to appear on New York Live, airing on WNBC-TV Channel 4 this Friday, August 17 at 3pm.
IT BEGAN WITH A FEATURE IN SUNDAY’S NEW YORK TIMES…
And here’s where you can catch The Midtown Men the rest of the week!
GOOD MORNING AMERICA (ABC)
Thursday, August 16th @ 8AM
The Midtown Men will perform two songs and chat with anchors
(one LIVE performance and one taped for ABCNEWS.COM)
GOOD DAY NEW YORK (FOX)
Friday, August 17th @ 8:45 AM
The Midtown Men will perform one song LIVE on air and chat with anchors
NEW YORK LIVE (NBC)
Friday, August 17th @ 3:00 PM
The Midtown Men will chat with the hosts about their upcoming tour and perform a short section of “Candy Girl”
Here’s your chance to join The Midtown Men as they kick off their 2012-2013 concert tour in legendary Asbury Park! We want you to share your favorite Midtown Men “moment” (both here on the Midtown Club site, AND on the Men’s Facebook page) : whether it’s a favorite song in the show, a story they tell, meeting them after the show…anything goes. Everyone who shares will have a chance to win tickets to the August 18th show at the Paramount Theatre!
The Midtown Men are on a roll! Not only will they “officially” begin their 2012-2013 concert tour in legendary Asbury Park on Saturday, August 18th, but the tour will be kicked off in great style with a full page spread in this Sunday’s edition of the NY Times, followed by an appearance on Good Morning America on Thursday!
Those of us who have been following Christian, Bobby, Daniel and Michael since the beginning knew that it was just a matter of time before they started making national headlines. We’ve had many discussions on the importance of a “morning show” appearance. And I for one am thrilled that so many will now have the opportunity to enjoy what we have been enjoying for years – not only the fabulous sound these four talented gentlemen bring to the best music of the sixties, but the humble, kind and generous men that they are.
Congratulations, MEN…you deserve every bit of the spotlight, and I know you will enjoy every minute of it!
Stay tuned for information on more media coverage of The Midtown Men in the coming week … (teaser…AP video interview, among others …)
Midtown Men quartet branches away from ‘Jersey Boys’
Green Bay Press-Gazette
Being in a hit Broadway show for three years is one thing, but being able to catapult beyond that “into a brand new arena of actually being rock stars ourselves is unique,’’ says Michael Longoria, who starred in “Jersey Boys.’’
After his run in the Tony-winning show that tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Longoria and his three stage buddies continued on and became The Midtown Men, a harmonic quartet that tours on its own, including a Friday stop at Oneida Casino.
“In ‘Jersey Boys,’ we played four characters,” said Longoria, calling from Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. “We had Jersey accents. I played a specific guy. I was Frankie. Here, you get to see me – and all of us, really – come out of our shell, and there are no accents but the ones we were born with.
“I was born in Hollywood, Calif., Bobby (Spencer) in Texas, Daniel (Reichard) in Ohio and Christian (Hoff) in San Diego, Calif. You get a behind-the-scenes look at who the artists were behind the hit of that time we were in ‘Jersey Boys,’’’ Longoria said. “Not only that, but this is our third year on tour as the Midtown Men. So you get stories from our Broadway time and now we’re getting amazing stories from our time out on the road.”
Some of those stories are enough to make Longoria blush.
“We get a lot of people telling us their scandalous memories – a lot of older gentlemen coming over and saying, ‘I lost my virginity in the back seat of the car to this song.’ And I go, ‘What?’”
The concept of The Midtown Men is to extend the songs of Valli and The Four Seasons. The show includes newly arranged songs of Smokey Robinson, The Beatles and The Beach Boys, along with a Motown feel.
The music is “from a period in recording history where studio tricks weren’t as known,” he said. “People didn’t discover Auto-Tune, or they didn’t discover electronic sounds. It was literally human people sitting at an instrument beating a drum, strumming a guitar and using their human voices to tell a story.”
The Midtown Men’s current tour will take them all over the country to a wide range of venues. One scene in “Jersey Boys” imitates the four singers playing a huge arena, but now they’re experiencing it for real.
“As The Midtown Men, we’ve actually gotten to experience a real huge arena and a real audience, not just a fake wall of lights flashing at us, but real camera bulbs flashing, taking our pictures, singing along with us and knowing all the words,” Longoria said. “That is an experience that is so special and unique to us.”
Individual tickets recently went on sale for the September 8 show at River Center for the Performing Arts in Columbus, GA, and the December 9 show in Bloomsburg, PA! Don’t miss out!
Click here to purchase tickets for Columbus, GA.
Click here to purchase tickets for Bloomsburg, PA.
Category: The MUSIC