News From Northwest Arkansas….

• August 19, 2011 • Comments (0)

‘Jersey Boys’ Grow Up
Midtown Men hit the road with ’60s music and style

 by Becca Bacon Martin
What’s Up Editor, Assistant Features Editor
Northwest Arkansas Newspapers

from L to R: J. Robert Spencer, Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard (picture not part of original article)

 

We’re living the dream,” Christian Hoff says simply.  “We look at each other on stage and say, ‘Wow, this is real.’  We have to pinch ourselves.”

It’s not that Hoff wasn’t successful before he became one of the Midtown Men.  He was named “The Master of Mimicry” by Entertainment Weekly and has voiced more than 200 characters for audio books, surpassing the record of any other actor.  With musical colleagues — J. Robert Spencer, Michael Longoria and Daniel Reichard — he spent three years on Broadway in “Jersey Boys,” winning a Tony Award and Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle award nominations.

“The journey to the Tony was one of great patience and fortitude, as my grandmother would say. Work as an actor is so much about the craft and the process, I didn’t see it coming,” he says.

But in Midtown Men, the four performers are “not portraying characters,” Hoff says. “This is us. We get to live out the very story that we played on Broadway — kids from across the tracks, rags to riches. That’s our story now.”

The idea of the Midtown Men was conceived backstage at “Jersey Boys,” where Hoff and his co-stars started singing music beyond the Four Seasons’ songs featured in the play.

“We put everything we had learned in preparing for ‘Jersey Boys’ and the sound we had developed doing eight shows a week into songs by the Beach Boys, the Righteous Brothers, the Jackson Five, the Beatles,” Hoff says.

The quartet sang for Katie Couric’s 50th birthday party, Hoff says, but after their run in “Jersey Boys” ended, each went on to something else.   “After about a year, we were asked to perform together again, and it was as if no time had passed,” Hoff remembers.  “Our chemistry, our sound, was more evident to us with a little perspective.  And we decided it was time to start booking a tour.”

Performing as a musical group is something new for all four of the Midtown Men, Hoff says.  His first passion was acting.

“The moment I knew was the moment I stepped on a stage, playing Tom Sawyer,” he says.  He was 9, living in San Diego, Calif.  “I remember going out there and getting lost in the storytelling of it, just me and an empty theater.  Then, when you get a theater full of people and it comes alive, that’s when you get hooked.

“From then on, I stretched myself into new things — dancing, singing, voiceovers: I was the voice of Richie Rich in the Hanna-Barbera cartoons when I was younger.  You just throw yourself into stuff and see what you can’t do.”

Apparently Hoff hasn’t failed at anything yet — he’s also the father of five children ages 16 years to 4 weeks — but he’s still learning new things about touring.

“I didn’t expect the unique and unified response we get in each town we play,” he says.  “Whether it’s a small town in Montana or Chicago, there’s this buzz created by where we come from but also from the interest people have in this music.

“We’ve all heard these songs thousands of times, but how fresh they are and how fresh the response is, it’s amazing.

“Now that we are sort of ambassadors to the ’60s decade, we find it resonates with young people and old people alike,” he says.  “These are songs about something — social change, class issues, unrequited love — brought to life by young guys with new passion and perspective.

“This is everything we played out in ‘Jersey Boys’ come to life.”

FAQ
The Midtown Men
WHEN — 8 p.m. today and 2 & 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville
COST — $38-$54

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

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