Christian Hoff Chats With

• September 15, 2011 • Comments (0)

Midtown Men bring 1960s back

By Stacy Nick

The Midtown Men, l to r: J. Robert Spencer, Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard

Christian Hoff may be California born and bred but to the rest of the world, he’ll always be a Jersey Boy.

“We knew right away that we were part of something very special and that these roles were larger than life,” said Hoff, who was one of the original four from the Broadway hit musical tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, “Jersey Boys.”  “People just identify with each of us as these characters.”

Now Hoff is getting a bit of déjà vu from his new role with his “Jersey Boys” co-horts Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and Tony Award nominee J. Robert Spencer as The Midtown Men.

“Now it’s like we’re doing what we pretended to do as Jersey Boys,” Hoff said.  Rather than portraying a vocal foursome entertaining thousands of fans, the Midtown Men are a vocal foursome performing hits from the 1950s and ’60s.  The group will bring its show to Lincoln Center Saturday as part of the venue’s grand re-opening celebration.

“Sometimes we really have to pinch ourselves,” said Hoff, who put his voice to work in cartoons and audio books (he holds the Guinness World Record for most voice characters in a single audio book with a whopping 241 for “Tell Me How You Love the Picture”), before hitting it big with “Jersey Boys.”  “We knew we were on to something really special but we had no idea the rocket ride that it was going to be.”

Hoff began acting at the age of 8, performing with the San Diego Junior Theater.  Later he got bit parts on television but it was on the stage where he really was making a name for himself. In 2005 he was cast as one of the original “Jersey Boys. ” The show quickly took off, earning numerous Tony Awards; meanwhile, on their off hours the Boys would practice singing other songs from the era.  What started as just having some fun in the dressing rooms soon became a new career path.

The four were asked to perform at various events, including Katie Couric’s 50th birthday and the Yankees’ Joe Torre.  After wrapping up more than 1,000 performances on Broadway run, they stepped down from their formal “Jersey Boys” roles and did several shows as “The Boys in Concert”; after legal action from the show’s creators, the “Boys” became “Men,” booking tours of their own and even recording a CD.  “The Midtown Men: Sixties Hits” was released last month.

Choosing songs from such prolific musical eras wasn’t easy, Hoff said. Each of the Men had a hand in picking songs that fit their vocal stylings and would resonate with audiences.

“We didn’t set out to just be a tribute act or just bank on hits from the ’60s,” Hoff said.  “We wanted to do something different; put our own spin on these timeless songs.

“We feel this is our music as much as the original artists because of that investment,” he added.

So how does a guy who wasn’t even born until 1968, find his voice there?

I started getting into ’60s music when I was in high school, said Hoff, who alternated the Beatles with Boston and Frankie Valli with Van Halen.

“My friends thought it was weird but that era really resonated with me,” he said.  “It had everything — from the British invasion to folk to psychedelic.  There’s something so deep and diverse about this music, you can really live in it and it’s like a full-course meal.”

As for why audiences are responding so well to the era’s music now, Hoff said it’s a sound that just never really went away.

“These songs are as strong now as ever — they’re even better than any contemporary songs that we could find now,” he said.  “Again, it’s that diversity.  Whether you’re a clean cut “Mad Men” type or into the social change aspect … there’s something for everybody.”

The Midtown Men aim to celebrate all of that diversity.  Their Rat Pack-styled shows include a mix of stories mixed with songs from Motown to the Beach Boys to the Beatles; right now the Men are even working on a segment of girl group songs, and while Hoff doesn’t want to divulge too much about the new set he said it will honor some great songs that the Men felt they could pull off “without putting on dresses.”

But who knows?  The Midtown Women might just be the next big thing.

Category: Christian Hoff, Media, The MEN, The MUSIC

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