Archive for November, 2014

‘Midtown Men Live In Concert’ Begins Airing Tonight

Catherine • November 29, 2014 • Comments (8)

The moment we’ve all been waiting for!!  The Midtown Men make their broadcast television debut this weekend with their May 28 NJPAC concert  taped live for PBS.

Airing begins tonight with shows on local PBS stations in New York, New Jersey and Atlanta.  Check out air dates throughout the country on the calendar below (listed in no partcicular order.)  And keep checking your local PBS stations for air dates near you, or for changes in the schedules.

Category: Media, The MUSIC

View Post

Sold Out Crowd at Hawaii Theatre “certainly got its money’s worth”

Catherine • November 23, 2014 • Comments (0)

Several numbers stood out:
» Reichard evoking memories of Johnnie Ray as he worked the mic stand at the front of the stage during his dramatic rendition of “I Cried For You.”
» Longoria ripping it up as a powerhouse song stylist with “Something Got A Hold On Me.”
» Spencer connecting with a surprise reworking of “Build Me Up Buttercup” and an winning rendition of “Ain’t That Peculiar.”
» Hoff delivering a charming take on “Happy Together.”

 

Review: Midtown Men at Hawaii Theatre

REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER

The Midtown Men on stage at the Hawaii Theatre on Saturday. PHOTO BY BRUCE ASATO

National touring company productions of hit Broadway shows come through Honolulu from time to time, but seeing the touring company is not the same as seeing the stars of the Broadway production.

That inescapable fact makes the Midtown Men — four original members of the cast of “Jersey Boys” — the closest Honolulu is likely to get to seeing the stars of single Broadway hit performing together here.

Christian Hoff originated the role of Tommy DeVito and won a Tony Award for his performance. Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer originated the roles of Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi respectively. Michael Longoria originated the role of Joe Pesci, a close friend of the Four Seasons, and then moved up to the role of the group’s lead vocalist, Frankie Valli; he played Valli alongside Hoff, Reichard and Spencer for two years.

When the Midtown Men sing Four Seasons hits — “Dawn (Go Away),” “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” to name three — they are singing songs that they sang together on Broadway. Hawaii can’t get closer to a Broadway cast than that.

But — and this is important — the Midtown Men are also more than that. They’re not doing excerpts from “Jersey Boys.” They aren’t a tribute act impersonation of the Four Seasons either. What Hawaii saw at the Hawaii Theatre on Saturday was bigger, better and more imaginative than either a greatest hits show or a tribute act production. Four charismatic vocalists/dancers did an eclectic assortment of classic oldies from the 1960s along with one from 1975 that fit in perfectly.

The seven musicians who backed them were excellent as well.

The Hawaii Theatre was sold out Saturday and the crowd certainly got its money’s worth. The quartet performed for more than 90 minutes.

Almost everything was either uptempo or emotionally uplifting or both. Nothing in the show felt like filler. Every song fit. The jokes and stories and back-and-forth introductions added entertainment value rather than simply stretching the running time.

And, unlike the Four Seasons, all four Midtown Men sing lead — sometimes trading off in the middle of a song.  Spirited choreography worked especially well when they were doing vintage soul hits.

Several numbers stood out:
» Reichard evoking memories of Johnnie Ray as he worked the mic stand at the front of the stage during his dramatic rendition of “I Cried For You.”
» Longoria ripping it up as a powerhouse song stylist with “Something Got A Hold On Me.”
» Spencer connecting with a surprise reworking of “Build Me Up Buttercup” and an winning rendition of “Ain’t That Peculiar.”
» Hoff delivering a charming take on “Happy Together.”

Two surprises in terms of their distance from the Four Seasons’ discography were “Time Of The Season” and “Never My Love” — both also featuring Hoff.  There was also a high-energy arrangement of arrangement of “River Deep-Mountain High” that captured the power and emotional intensity of the original Phil Special/Ike and Tina Turner production remarkably well.

Photo by Bruce Asato

A Motown medley displayed the quartet’s talents as lead vocalists, backing vocalists, dancers and arrangers in full measure. Although all the arrangements in the show are original, the Motown medley showed that the quartet can do justice to songs that are almost impossible to improve on.

And — no surprise — Longoria did a stellar job on all the Frankie Valli material.

A 15-minute intermission gave many in the house time to visit the restrooms. Others made use of the break to pick up a copy of the group’s newly released CD, “The Midtown Men Live In Concert!” — a preview of a PBS concert scheduled for broadcast later this year.

On a personal note, the guys made it clear they’d been here long enough to soak up some basic Hawaiiana. Their heart-felt “Mahalos” and“Alooooooooooooo-has!” were well received by the audience. So were their brief comments about their experiences here.

It was notable that they never had to cue the audience to “put your hands together” or “give it up for…” The crowd spontaneously clapped along in rhythm as the mood hit them from the quartet’s opener, “Get Ready,” through the encore performance of “Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye).”

Burton White, left, Artistic Director & General Manager of the Hawaii Theatre, celebrated backstage with the Midtown Men — Christian Hoff, J. Robert Spencer, Daniel Reichard and Michael Longoria — after their sold-out opening night performance. PHOTO BY JOHN BERGER

Category: Concerts, Media, The MEN, The MUSIC

View Post

The Midtown Men Play Two Shows at the Hawaii Theatre This Weekend – Aloha!

Catherine • November 21, 2014 • Comments (0)

“If you can imagine the intensity and the passion in bringing to life one group’s story, and basically send it off on a trajectory of great success — as a matter of fact, of phenomenal success that continues — we’re doing the same thing for all of our favorite groups of the 1960s: the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Motown.”

Christian Hoff

 

Midtown Men share love of ’60s music

BY JOHN BERGER, Star Advertiser

Why would someone leave a Tony Award-winning featured role in a Tony Award-winning Broadway show? For Christian Hoff, who developed the role of Tommy DeVito in “Jersey Boys” and then received a Tony for his performance, the answer is simple. He found a new challenge that was even bigger: performing as one of the Midtown Men, who appear for two shows at the Hawaii Theatre this weekend.

Hoff opened as DeVito in 2005, playing the man he describes as “the wild card” in the Four Seasons. The Four Seasons — Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi — was one of the biggest American vocal groups of the 20th century. “Jersey Boys,” the jukebox musical treatment of their career, has played on Broadway for more than 3,500 performances and is still running.

The bigger challenge? Hoff and three other members of the original cast — Daniel Reichard (Gaudio), J. Robert Spencer (Massi) and Michael Longoria (who played Joe Pesci — yes, that Joe Pesci, later famed as the actor in “Home Alone,” who played a key role in bringing songwriter Gaudio and singer Valli together) — discovered they enjoyed singing together even when they weren’t working. They enjoyed it so much that after three years of job security with “Jersey Boys,” they took a flying leap of faith and left to become a vocal group specializing in the hits of the 1960s.

The quartet would eventually become known as the Midtown Men.

“None of us had really produced a show before like we’ve done with this and taken full responsibility for it. That was an opportunity that got our attention,” Hoff said recently, calling from “a hotel room with a view of the New York City skyline.”

“To be a part of something that we’ve created that has a life and longevity in and of its own is more entrepreneurial than anything we have experienced before.

“It’s a collective, it’s a group effort, and what I think is exciting about that is no matter how great we are as individuals, the whole is greater than its parts. It’s beautiful together.”

TO BE perfectly clear, this is not “Jersey Boys.” These are the Midtown Men — informed by the performers’ Broadway skills and love for ’60s music.

“We don’t do ‘Jersey Boys,’” Hoff said emphatically. “We haven’t been in ‘Jersey Boys’ since the end of 2008, so here we are, five years down the line, and we’re continuing to grow in our own right.”

He added, “Everything that we brought to life in ‘Jersey Boys’ on Broadway — the story, the music, the era of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons — we now do the same thing for the entire decade of the ’60s. If you can imagine the intensity and the passion in bringing to life one group’s story, and basically send it off on a trajectory of great success — as a matter of fact, of phenomenal success that continues — we’re doing the same thing for all of our favorite groups of the 1960s: the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Motown.”

The quartet’s first album includes songs by Marvin Gaye, the Mamas & the Papas, the Turtles and the Zombies. A second album, soon to be released, includes a Rascals hit, “Groovin’,” with Gene Cornish, one of the original Rascals, sitting in on harmonica.

Hoff adds that while Frankie Valli’s high falsetto was the lead vocal on all almost all the Four Seasons’ hits, all four of the Midtown Men sing lead; their vocal parts are not locked in.

Longoria, who opened the production playing Joe Pesci but inherited the role of Valli, sometimes sings in a lower register. DeVito was the group’s bass vocalist, but Hoff sometimes takes the falsetto part.

Hoff and his partners initially performed as “The Boys in Concert,” but the relation between that title and “Jersey Boys” provoked a brief flurry of legal action from the creators of “Jersey Boys.”

“They were concerned that we were going to go do a production of ‘Jersey Boys’ lite,” Hoff said. “We weren’t doing that. The only connection was our wanting to let people know that we were from the original cast of ‘Jersey Boys.’”

Hoff and his guys were awarded the fair-use tag line and changed their group’s name to the Midtown Men.

HOFF SAID the experience of portraying his complicated “Jersey Boys” character helps inform his current performance.

In the Broadway show, DeVito gets in over his head, running up gambling debt and facing possible unpleasantness from a loan shark until someone higher up the organized-crime food chain intervenes. By this time, Valli’s marriage is over, and DeVito tries to seduce Valli’s girlfriend.

When DeVito left the group in 1970, Valli and Gaudio bought his rights to the Four Seasons’ material and use of the name.

Hoff says he contacted DeVito before rehearsals for “Jersey Boys” began.

“This was not what the producers of ‘Jersey Boys’ wanted me to do,” Hoff said. “They didn’t set this up; I did it on my own.

“I wrote him a note, and he called me on my honeymoon in 2004 and we had a conversation. My friendship (with DeVito) began then and continued not only through the inception of ‘Jersey Boys,’ but to this day.”

The conversation helped Hoff refine his acting.

“The character and the way I did it became stronger and stronger, bigger and bigger, to where it informed Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio’s relationship in a way that was undeniable.

“What started out a little bit of a wild-card character in the story became a hinge, if you will, for the dramatic part of the story. It was not only a great role, but a great opportunity for an actor to bring a role to life, and that’s what the Tony Award was about.”

When the time came to create the Midtown Men, Hoff’s experience came into play.

“The three of us — Bobby, Daniel and myself — we came with the show to Broadway,” he said. “We sat around the table with the writers and our director before there was even a script, and we began to identify and create a show based on not only the history of the Four Seasons, but our personalities. That’s something that’s very unique that I think has carried over now in the success of the Midtown Men.

“We’ve now found our own sound, and that’s the cool thing about this.”

****************************************************************

THE MIDTOWN MEN»

Where: Hawaii Theatre, 1130 Bethel St.»

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday»

Cost: $40-$100»

Info: (808) 528-0506, hawaiitheatre.com

Category: Christian Hoff, Concerts, Media

View Post

More Pics From Atlantic City

Catherine • November 13, 2014 • Comments (1)

JoAnn C. sent along a few of her pics from Atlantic City, including a great picture of her friend Joe Scalzadonna with former Four Seasons Joe Long and Tommy DeVito.  Thank you for sharing, JoAnn!

 

Joe S. with former Four Seasons Joe Long (l) and Tommy DeVito (r)

 

 

Category: Concerts, Fan Stories, The MEN

View Post

Singing and Dancing Sold Out Crowd In Atlantic City

Catherine • November 10, 2014 • Comments (0)

And the crowd goes wild….The sold out crowd at the Golden Nugget Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, that is, when The Midtown Men took the stage Saturday night.  According the The Men, their fans, old and new, were “singing along, dancing in the aisles and rallying us to new heights.

If you were part of that crowd and you have pictures to share, please email them to tmmclub@comcast.net and I will post them here.  Also, please leave a comment here and tell us what you loved about the show!

To start things off, Steve M. shared his experience with me, along with a few great shots – thank you Steve!

Last night’s performance by The Midtown Men was electrifying and enjoyed by a sold out crowd in the Main Venue at the Golden Nugget. My new personal favorite song and choreography is the Men’s interpretation of ‘Be My Baby’.  Michael takes the song to a whole new level.

Sitting in the same row as us, second row, just a few seats to our right was the one and only Sir Tommy DeVito himself. I did have an opportunity to meet him and shake his hand after the show. He seemed to enjoy the concert and rose to his feet during the final 2 songs.  Also sitting in between Tommy and ourselves was another original four season star, Joe Long, who succeeded Nick Massi when he quit the band.

The Golden Nugget was a great venue and we randomly ran into the guys and various band members in the casinos and restaurants and bars.  Meeting up with other TMM friends is always fun, as well as making new ones.  And of course, the banter with the boys after the show is the dessert of the evening.

THE Tommy DeVito

 

Category: Concerts, Fan Stories, The MEN, The MUSIC

View Post