“Katie Couric turned the ‘Boys’ into ‘Men’…

• May 18, 2012 • Comments (3)

‘Jersey Boys’ into ‘The Midtown Men,’ that is.”

Article by Bruce Miller, Sioux City Journal

J. Robert Spencer, Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria and Daniel Reichard are The Midtown Men. The four met in the original Broadway cast of "Jersey Boys."

Asked to sing at the former CBS anchor’s 50th birthday party, four members of the original cast of Broadway’s “Jersey Boys” liked the experience and, says Christian Hoff, the idea of becoming a group “just snowballed from there.”

The four booked several concerts, liked the reaction and figured life as The Midtown Men “would be a side gig until our next Broadway shows,” Hoff says. “But what we set in motion was bigger than we ever expected.”

Now, Hoff, Daniel Reichard, J. Robert Spencer and Michael Longoria are so busy they’ve got concert engagements into 2013.

“What we’re doing is eclipsing our experience in ‘Jersey Boys’ — if that was at all possible. We’re living out a dream.”

All four sang as teenagers; two were in bands. Then Broadway entered their lives and acting looked like the chosen profession.

They met in the original cast of “Jersey Boys,” the musical story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Hoff played Tommy DeVito, Reichard played Bob Gaudio and Spencer played Nick Massi. Longoria was originally cast as Joe Pesci, then played Frankie Valli after John Lloyd Young left.

The four played around with other ’60s music during the run of the show. They liked what they heard and decided it would be fun to cover hits from some of the Four Seasons’ competition. The result? A catalog that includes the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Ike and Tina Turner, the Turtles, the Rascals, the Righteous Brothers — you name it.

“We made a choice to do less than 40 percent of our set from either the ‘Jersey Boys’ or Frankie Valli,” Hoff says. “Jersey Boys” producers were concerned they were going to do a Frankie Valli-lite version of the show.

“When the dust settled, they realized this was very different from ‘Jersey Boys.’ The only thing that tied us together was that we were in the show.”

Now, with a CD to their credit, the four are making a name for themselves in a different arena.

“It’s very surreal,” Hoff says. “We’re living out a life and a lifestyle that we once portrayed. You’re entertaining from your toes. You’re not portraying another person.”

People identify with them — not their characters — “and there’s no way to describe that. It’s an entertainer’s dream to live in the moment. It’s connecting to the music, yourself and the story of the song. You use your own life experience as the inspiration.”

While all four have had acting offers (can anyone say “Smash”?), they’ve had to put those opportunities on hold while they pursue this option.

Acting, Hoff says, will definitely be a part of their lives. “I’m very excited about the weight and experience this is giving me in my creative soul. These experiences are shaping my character.”

The Midtown Men’s future will definitely include original music. “We’re breathing new life into old music. What we’d like to do next is put our old sound on new music.”

Classics from the 1950s and 1960s, he says, have influenced artists like Bruno Mars, Cee Lo Green and Adele. Competition shows are filled with young singers performing covers. “The music is still alive and well, whether you know it or not,” Hoff says.

And “Jersey Boys”? It keeps chugging along. In addition to selling out on tour, it’s still running on Broadway. Young, in fact, has agreed to return to the show.

Hoff, however, doubts any of the Midtown Men will follow his lead. “My gut instinct, as a group, is that’s a position we’ve outgrown. The phenomenon of ‘Jersey Boys’ lives on in a parallel universe.”

Interestingly, Hoff has never seen the show since leaving it.

“When I left ‘Jersey Boys’ I had been in the shoes of my character for 10 percent of my life — I was 40 and it was four years of my life. To relive it would almost be like trying to time travel.”

The show? It was more than just another job for Hoff. He was involved in its birth in La Jolla, Calif.

The show was tailored to the actors’ talents. And Hoff’s character? He became the heart and soul of the story. The actor earned a Tony nomination for the work — his first Broadway role in 10 years — and viewed the experience as something pretty magical.

The Tony nomination, he says, was validation he had accomplished “what I was called to do.”

The day of the Tony Awards was as hectic as show business gets. In the morning, Hoff and company rehearsed at Radio City Music Hall. In the afternoon they performed a matinee. At night, they did the red carpet, performed on the show and sat in the audience waiting to hear whose name would be called.

Hoff braced himself “and five minutes later I was on stage and the crowd was on its feet. It was so surreal…but it was a triumph for all of us.”

The Best Featured Actor in a Musical trophy sits on his mantel, a tribute to a perfect experience.

Now, Hoff says, there’s a new challenge, a new venture.

“When we started, we weren’t sure if this would have legs,” he says of The Midtown Men. “Now, we’re watching it becoming a phenomenon. We’re not just the talent. We’re the producers, the directors, the choreographers and we’re in control.

“With that control comes responsibility, but we’re ready for it.

“It was a dream of mine to be in a band. Now,” he says, “I’m living the dream.”

The Midtown Men will play Winnavegas Casino at 8 p.m. on May 19. Tickets are $20 in advance, $40 day of show. For more information, call Winnavegas, 1-800-468-9466.

Category: Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, J. Robert Spencer, Media, Michael Longoria, The MEN, The MUSIC

3 comments on ““Katie Couric turned the ‘Boys’ into ‘Men’…

  1. Melissa on said:

    “You’re entertaining from your toes….” Well said Christian! That about sums up how the four of you just give everything you’ve got in every show! Love it!

  2. Howard on said:

    Can’t wait to see you guys on Katie Couric’s new ABC talk show! Please keep us posted!

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