Archive for January, 2015
The Midtown Men Live in Concert with The Louisville Orchestra
Bob Bernhardt, conductor
Review by Kathi E. B. Ellis
Midtown Men on Main Street
The Midtown Men are an intriguing mix of retro and contemporary – the high energy quartet of Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer faithfully recreate the music of the Sixties (ish) through the lens of the successful Broadway musical “Jersey Boys” (which was seen by Louisville audiences in 2012 as part of the Broadway in Louisville series), as the four originators of the lead roles on Broadway. On Saturday evening The Midtown Men joined The Louisville Orchestra, under the baton of POPS conductor Bob Bernhardt, for just shy of two hours of a non-stop, tightly-harmonized, precisely-choreographed walk down a musical memory lane to the delight of an almost-packed house.
These four performers have performed these songs for thousands of performances – as part of the musical and, in recent years, in this concert version. There is an ease and familiarity both with the material and between them. They banter easily between the songs, their introductions of each other is generous and genuine, they enjoy the others’ solos. And, on Saturday evening, appeared really to appreciate the lush tones of the Orchestra. Two of their band, which was playing with the Orchestra, were introduced: the drummer and pianist. Having enjoyed hearing these familiar melodies enhanced by an orchestral accompaniment it would be interesting to hear The Midtown Men with their seven-piece band, more closely approximating the sound of the original Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Drifters, et al.
Hoff, Longoria, Reichard and Spencer are an impressive collective of musical and acting talent that immediately engages with and endears itself to the audience. The first half of the concert is primarily stand-alone songs, most of which brought signals of delighted recognition at the first notes from members of the audience. Winning and self-deprecating stories of their experiences from the Broadway show were strategically interspersed. The concert shifted into high gear in the second half with an extended medley during which the Orchestra and The Midtown Men found their groove together and the material soared through Whitney Hall.
It seems churlish to pick out any one song or performer from this accomplished presentation, but…there was an unexpected moment of bitter-sweet, dropped into the mostly-upbeat tempos and lyrics of the night, that stilled the audience in Daniel Reichard’s performance of “Just My Imagination”, delicately supported by the other members of the quartet. The contrast between this conditional ballad and the confections surrounding it reveals not just this group’s musical capacity but also how their experience as actors informs their interpretation of this material.
Other highlights included, of course, “Oh What A Night”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Sherry”. And no-one could have been surprised that the big finale was “Bye Bye Baby” – but then there was also just about every other song included in the concert. If this is a period of music that you love, The Midtown Men deliver the sound, the style, and the energy in grand style.
The only slightly ‘off’ note of the evening was the bum rap that Paducah received during one of the chatty moments (the group played at the Carson Four Rivers Performing Arts Center on Friday.). We can only hope that the next time performers head to Paducah they talk with locals who are more informed about the uniqueness of this city. The nationally-recognized artist relocation program, anyone? As for Paducah being known for quilting, it’s a shame the guys weren’t able to take in the National Quilt Museum to see that contemporary quilt design is more than just great grandma’s log cabin design…
On the other hand, the announcement that J. Robert Spencer made to promote local group Acting Against Cancer‘s upcoming production of Next To Normal was a generous nod to a community production of a show for which he received a Tony Award nomination. Classy.
The Midtown Men invited fans to join them in Midtown Manhattan last night for “an intimate concert/cocktail party celebrating the launch of our new ‘Live In Concert’ album and National Public Television Special.” Midtown Club Fan Correspondent Heather Powell was thrilled to share the experience with those of us who were unable to attend.
Live In Concert/Launch Party
Sunday, January 11, 2015. Stage 48, NYC
We were invited to “Join the party in New York City” and what a party it was! Part concert, part cocktail party, filled with stars, (Stevie VanZandt, Tommy James, Kate Taylor, La La Brooks and cabaret legend Marilyn Maye), long-time fans, and personal friends of the Men. The venue was intimate, very unlike the larger concert halls and theaters where I had previously seen the Men perform. The energy was palpable from the moment I entered, people buzzing around greeting old friends and meeting new ones. Everyone had a heightened sense of excitement for the evening. But the energy of the pre-show, while crackling with anticipation, could not compare with the explosion that occurred when The Midtown Men ran out onto the stage and told us all to “Get Ready.”
You know, I think it’s fair to say that this is a group with consummate professionalism; every show they do is their “A-game.” They have performed at state fairs, small theaters, and the Kennedy Center, and they always treat their audience with the utmost respect. That said, they completely rocked the entire night. They were clearly in their element in Midtown Manhattan, surrounded by friends and friendly faces alike. I really enjoyed seeing them relax a bit and show their fun personalities even more than usual.
During two 30 min sets, they sang a good sampling of the favorites, such as “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Sherry,” “Ain’t That Peculiar,” and “Happy Together.” They also introduced us for the first time to TMM versions of “In My Life” by the Beatles, with a heartfelt introduction and vocals by Bobby, “Good Lovin’” (The Rascals), with Daniel in the lead and some rockin’ new choreography, and “For What It’s Worth” (Buffalo Springfield), with soulful vocals by Christian Hoff. Daniel brought the whole house down with “Cry for Me” without even splitting his pants (as pointed out by Christian afterwards).
1) Michael Longoria’s just completely ridiculous vocals in “Something’s Got a Hold on Me.” I think Etta James would be proud. And maybe a little jealous.
2) The genius arrangement and blending of the guys’ 4 unique vocals/styles in “My Eyes Adored You.”
3) Christian Hoff’s dancing. The man is just smooth.
4) Motown Medley. Enough said.
Another amazing part of the whole night was being able to meet and connect with other TMM fans. This group attracts some quality people, and it was my privilege to get to know a few of them last night. They were equally as excited to be there as I was, and some had comments of their own:
Tricia: “What an amazing night, the room was electric, the guys were on fire, great way to start the new year!”
Pam S.: “It was a thrill to see the guys having as much fun as we were. Also loved the new material, especially ‘In My Life’ and ‘For What It’s Worth.’”
Pam G.: “The audience’s reaction to Daniel Reichard’s ‘Cry For Me’ was epic…the standing ovation was almost deafening!”
Finally, at the end of the evening, the guys were gracious enough to talk with the fans, take pictures, and just generally revel in all the merriment that they helped to create. Making sincere connections with their audience has always been a talent of all four of them and tonight was no different.
It was a really special night, and a great way to launch into 2015 with TMM. Other fans across the country who are reading this already know what I am talking about. And those who have not seen a show yet, get to one ASAP. You won’t regret it.
A huge thank you to Heather for your awesome contribution to the Club. Fans, if you want to share your experience from last night’s festivities, post your comments here and email your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org