Their Favorite Things: Original Jersey Boys Star Daniel Reichard Shares His Theatregoing Experiences (Playbill, December 23, 2015)
Daniel Reichard, who created the role of Bob Gaudio in the Tony-winning musical Jersey Boys, shares the performances that most affected him as part of the audience. The singing actor has also just released a holiday EP entitled “Daniel Reichard — Under the Mistletoe,” which is available on iTunes and CDbaby.com. (Click here to read article.)
The Midtown Men kick off a big week of concerts all over the Midwest – starting with tonight’s show in Green Bay!
Click here to watch the video.
Christian Hoff From Child Actor to Midtown Man
BroadwayWorld Interview: by Heidi Scheuermann, broadwayworld.com
Coming to New Orleans tomorrow night is an act that no JERSEY BOYS loving theatergoers, including myself, are going to want to miss! THE MIDTOWN MEN, four original cast members from the Broadway hit JERSEY BOYS (Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard, J. Robert Spencer) have come together and have formed their own music group which brings to life the music of the 60′s in what’s sure to be an energy packed show.
Among the four MIDTOWN MEN group members is a pretty awesome person named Christian Hoff, and I had the privilege of speaking with him for almost an hour about his early career as a child actor, his journey to becoming a Tony Award winner for his role in JERSEY BOYS, and his transition from Broadway star to touring band member. There’s no doubt about it. Christian loves his lifelong job as an actor/singer/business man/artist, and it certainly shined through during our conversation:
So you’re from California, and you involved yourself in community theater when you were a very little kid, you went to a performing arts high school, and you haven’t stopped performing since then. This is something you’ve quite literally been doing your entire life. Where does the passion come from? How have you been able to do this for so long without burning out?
Well, you know, the thing about doing what you love to do is you look for opportunities to do it. Right? I got hooked when I was a kid. The first time I stepped out on stage it was sort of like being on the pitcher’s mound, which is what I thought I was gonna do was be a baseball player, and you can control the outcome of the game. That was something that as a storyteller I realized that you are in total control of something. You know what I mean? You affect other people, and if it doesn’t go great then you can fix it. I just love doing it. So I got hooked right away, and then I started storytelling, and when I stepped out on stage I knew it’s what I wanted to do with my life.
Even as a kid this is something you knew that’s what I’m going to do with my life?
Yeah, it just sort of fit. I never thought I was gonna be able to. I was always sort of stretched, and I still am. I always try to stretch myself beyond what I think I can do. You kind of keep raising the bar in your mind, your expectations of yourself, and the discipline. And the thing about doing what we’re doing now is we do hundreds and hundreds of shows, and sometimes, like next month, we have 18 shows in 28 days in like 15 states. So what happens with that is then it’s just a matter of stamina and that I learned early on… the craft of being an entertainer and the sort of diligence and just being part of a tradition that was bigger than me. I love that team aspect. That’s really playing a part right now in starting our own band and our own trajectory as four entertainers from Broadway (that’s where we met). To start a band and to tour the country singing and telling our own story is very unique. It’s not something that I expected, and it’s definitely out of our comfort zones as far as what we anticipated. Going into JERSEY BOYS we thought ok well now we’ll move on and do another show after, and you keep re-defining yourself like that. But, to re-define yourself and be in a band for five years now is pretty cool. It’s very different. It’s a different role altogether, but bottom line is it’s the same stuff. There’s the audience, there’s storytelling, the music, there’s lights, the sound. It’s great. It’s exactly what we were born to do; it’s just in a different arena now.
Who have been some of your biggest influences over all of your years of performing?
Well, ok, so in the audio world, or the voicing world I broke a world record for an audio book that I did because of the number of characters. I actually surpassed Jim Dale’s record for Lord of the Rings… I think it was Lord of the Rings, and I’ve done voices all my life. Cartoons and voices for commercials and everything, but so in the cartoon world I was the original Richie Rich at Hanna-Barbara [Productions]. This is long before your time, my friend. Imagine this… a little kid doing the voice of Richie Rich, which at the time was a new cartoon, and walking the halls… They’re making Scooby-Doo and The Jetsons and Yogi Bear… all of the cartoons that I was watching at the time. I sit down in the room and we’re recording my character, we’ve got a bunch of voice actors, and next to me is the guy who is voicing my dog. His name was Dollar, and the guy who did that voice did all of the animal voices, among other voices, but all the great animal voices. And, I found out by virtue of sitting next to him when he would go into all of these other characters and kind of just have fun with me so my dog would all of a sudden sound like Scooby-Doo or Astro or Dino from The Flinstones. He would always do that, and that blew my mind that he could do all those voices. And still is alive and well, still doing voices for film and TV. His name is Frank Welker. Long story short, Frank Welker, big influence.
The second person that really had an influence on me was Shirley MacLaine. The very first TV film was called “Every Little Movement” starring Shirley MacLaine, and I’ll never forget working with her, dancing with her, singing with her, and her pulling me aside and she said, “If you have the will, just see it through,” she called me ‘young fella’ at the time, “If you have the will, then see it through. Your life will never be the same.” She wrote that on our script and I think she handed me and orange slice and a handful of trail mix. But looking in her eyes and seeing her… and she’s such an entertainer, she’s an actor, we worked hard together we sweated together, we ate together, and seeing someone as gifted and as sort of transcendent as she is as a star and as a performer… to meet the person who was behind that and be encouraged by her really got my attention because she could see who I was for who I was, and not for what I was doing. It was like I see you as an entertainer that can do this all your life if you have the will to see it through. That’s helped me go through a lot of different phases. As a child actor, going through all the different transitions, basically from child actor to adolescent actor to young man to playing adults has just been… you constantly have to re-define yourself and re-imagine and re-teach other people how to see you, and that’s hard in show biz sometimes… but, not for a theatre actor. I think I learned early on how to keep at it.
And then in the music world I think Pete Townshend was my first music inspiration… guitar player for The Who, and he wrote THE WHO’S TOMMY, and he was an amazing influence on me just how he could command, very humbly command attention and draw you in and tell stories and communicate with you. He does the same thing with the press. He’s just amazing at commanding the room and getting his point across no matter what’s coming at him. I think that’s kind of cool. And he’s also a great businessman, too… publisher, entrepreneur, songwriter, guitar player… everything that I am.
And then from the directing world I would say the greatest director… I mean I worked with Hal Prince, that was amazing. That was my first Broadway show was in EVITA. I was in the West Coast production of EVITA, and just having Hal Prince there directing and having someone tell me who Hal Prince was… “Do you know who that is?” I’m like… “He’s the director?” They said, “Yeah that’s the director. His name is Hal Prince, and he is an amazing visionary and it’s such an honor to be in the show because he’s so involved and someday you’ll look back on this and go ‘whoa’. But right now, yeah, he’s just your director.” And so that was pretty darned cool. And then when I worked with Des McAnuff who directed THE WHO’S TOMMY, he brought me back basically into show business after taking a break with the role of Tommy. And, the role of Tommy in JERSEY BOYS, before there was even the script… he was looking for me, and he said, “Where are you? I can’t find you.” I said, “I’m sitting at my desk at my home and my kids are doing their homework on the couch. He’s like, “No, I mean like what are you doing? Are you still acting?” And I said, “I don’t know. What’ve you got?” And he says, “Well, you need to come in.” I said, “When?” “Right now.” I bring my kids to the audition, and my guitar, and I sang and there’s no script and we just ad-libbed, and he came around the table and he put his arm around me and said, “What are you doing in two months?” And I knew at that point in time that we were going to be collaborating again, and doing something very cool. He told me what it was about, the story of The Four Seasons, and we’re writing it now. So, I got to be part of a show that was being created around me, and with me, and through me. I think that’s what really helped me win the Tony Award was creating this character from the inside out. It wasn’t just that he was an Italian-American, and he was kind of a hot head, and he was the leader of the group until he left… it was about me. It was about my essences and things that Des as a visionary director saw in me, and that really helped because it was an acting stretch for me and yet it was all in my essences, my wheelhouse because he knows what I’m capable of… who I am inside.
How wonderful that you’ve had people around you from childhood until now that see that potential in you and have helped you to rise to the challenge. That’s really great! So let’s talk about that Tony Award since you mentioned it. You were the Tony Award winner for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for your role in JERSEY BOYS. Take me through your Tony’s experience. What was it like learning that you were nominated and then actually going on to win?
I remember that day when the nominations came out. My publicist called me in the morning and… I knew they were coming out that day, but the way I work is that it’s all about the work… it was just another show day. I was just kind of in my bed with my wife and we were just waking up and getting ready for the day, and I got a call and she goes, “Well, my friend, you got the nomination for a Tony Award.” And I was just like… my heart stopped and I was just blown away. I was like, “Really? That’s awesome.” It wasn’t that I was like shocked that I got nominated because I knew what I was doing was really special, it was more just like pride… just proud that what I was doing was affecting people. That’s why I started… it was about telling stories, it was about changing the way the audience saw something or saw a situation or saw me, and to be able to be recognized for that was a validation. Then we go through the nomination period, right? People are talking and speculating and they’re congratulating you and you’re just blown away. So, I figured that was it. I figured well this is the win, this was all… it was this validation, and so I kept going about my business, and tuning out all the distractions of the world like I do when I’m working hard on a show. When it comes to show time I’m digging in. I don’t listen, I don’t read reviews, I don’t pay too much attention to what people say. It’s just me, and the character, and director, and the story, right? I dug in the trenches of doing that and just continued to live in this character and grow, and that’s all I could do… what my most joyful days were like just days when I forgot about all of what was going on around me and just did the show and played to that audience that it could’ve been their first Broadway show or maybe their last Broadway show, and I wanted to affect them, I want to make it different for them. I did the show for over 1,500 performances. I think it was like 10% of my life at the time I built this character’s shoes, and which is a lot. I mean 10% of your life to be playing another character. But to answer your earlier question, that’s kind of what gets me going, too, is that the passion comes from loving to perform and loving every opportunity I get to do it. Whether it’s my first show or my billionth show it will always be about connecting to the audience in what I’m saying in the story. But then, ok, so Tony Awards… so here we are now, ok… On the day, here’s how it goes… You have to get up early and you go to Radio City Hall and you do a sound check and you rehearse… and then you have a matinee. So this is I think a Sunday, right? So then we go to the theatre, I do the show that we’re going to later perform on the Tony Awards, and my name will come up, and I’ll get to that process. But, I wasn’t even thinking about that. It was all about executing the day. We go, we do our show. After the show, which was great, after the show we go to Radio City Hall, and we do the pre-press and the red carpet and all that fun, fun stuff just enjoying being a part of… you know, this is an American tradition. Being an actor on Broadway, the Tony Awards, and I’m on top of the world. I’m with my friends, my partners that we all kind of stuck together as much as we could, but it was… I was just proud to represent the company and to represent all the actors in my category. So then I just tried to enjoy the Tony Awards as much as I could knowing that I was going to perform. That was my next thing to do was perform on the Tony Awards, which I knew I was going to do that so we were just living in it and all the changes that we had to do for the performance, so that’s where my focus was. But, meanwhile there’s photographers, there’s press, there’s people talking, I’m seeing celebrities, people are talking to me, they’re asking me about the show and congratulating me and all this other stuff, and I’m just there to work. And then I perform on the Tony Awards, which you can check out on YouTube, a really fun performance that we got to do with a great response. And then I’m escorted back to my seat because my category is next. So literally I get out of my costume, back into my tux, I’m sitting down… the minute my butt hits the seat it’s my category, and my wife and I were holding hands and so all of a sudden I’m like what this is so surreal. Then they listed the names of the four actors, myself included, and that was very surreal. And then, “And the Tony Award goes to Christian Hoff.” And, if you YouTube it…
…I have seen it, you looked absolutely stunned!
It was just like, it was like I had already won in my mind. I was nominated, I was in a hit Broadway show, I was doing what I love to do. It was like a gift that… the real gift is at the bottom, and you didn’t know. It’s like this diamond ring or the winning lottery ticket when it was part of a gift already. It’s like a house and then all of a sudden it’s oh well this is just a guesthouse and there’s keys to the mansion next door. That’s what it was like. It was humbling, but it was also exhilarating, and I think I share that experience with every winner and every actor that steps out on stage and is proud and happy to be there. That’s how I felt. I was representing what I signed up for when I was 8-years-old, and that’s to be the best actor and to go out there and give your all.
And then you’ve got to get up there after going through that flood of emotions and give your acceptance speech!
Oh yeah, we didn’t really prepare it. I didn’t write a speech, but I knew what… I had already processed what it meant to me and so that I knew was going to be… that’s all I needed to do. I was ready for that speech, but I hadn’t written it, and so it just came out very off the cuff as all really good things do. It’s how you feel about it. That’s what people remember… how you feel, not what you say. And how you say it, of course. That’s the result of just truth. It was a great, true moment for me. One I’ll carry with me always, and I do, whether it’s going to be back on Broadway or film or TV, as a writer or director… whatever. I will always carry that experience, and I share that with young actors and even young people or anybody that’s doing something that they love to do. Do it because you love to do it. Don’t do it because you want to get recognized. And then you will be recognized in ways that are transcendent. And that was a transcendent moment for me.
I think that most people who have heard your name before, they recognize you from JERSEY BOYS. The show just exploded. It has phenomenal music, the story is wonderful… Now that there’s a movie really everybody knows it. Even if you’re not necessarily a Broadway fan, you’ve heard of it. What do you think is the secret ingredient that JERSEY BOYS has that just draws people in? I think it’s such a perfect show, it’s so good.
Exactly, I think the story is what’s so cool that surprises people. Everyone anticipates it’s gonna be good music and this great era, but it’s the way it was crafted and written, and I think that ultimately the book and the direction are the true champions here. I had a hand in it, of course, since it was written around me, through me, for me. And, for all of us guys… Bobby [J. Robert Spencer], who I work with now, he was an original. The moment JERSEY BOYS started we were sitting around a table and we hadn’t read anything yet or sung anything yet and Daniel Reichard and I were there… just the three of us that are in the MIDTOWN MEN were a part of JERSEY BOYS before it even existed, and that’s something very special that’s carrying through in the success of the MIDTOWN MEN. And then Michael [Longoria] was the original Joe Pesci on Broadway, and the alternate for Frankie… he doubled Frankie Valli vocally every show, but he also performed it at matinees and then took over the second or third year. We had a different Frankie at the beginning, a brilliant actor who created the role. His name is David Noroña, and he is the unsung hero of JERSEY BOYS because he, along with Daniel and Bobby and I, created this foursome, this quartet. It wasn’t written based on the guys. It was written based on our chemistry and our bringing them to life. So then when Broadway got it, he chose not to go. He wanted to continue his writing career, his acting career, it was too much. So that’s when they found John [Lloyd Young]. We opened our arms up to him and helped him find his own in the role, and it’s happened with casts beyond that. Michael took over the role and filled it in his own way. All the guys that we passed the baton to in different companies are able to bring themselves to it to a point. But, it’s all based on what we set out… there was a standard in the model that we put in this that they try to recreate with other companies, and they do it very well, and that’s a testament I think not to the performances all the time, but it’s the writing and I’m proud to have been a part of that from the beginning… the writing and creation of the show so that my stamp is indelible. You can’t take that away from this. I am Tommy, and Tommy is me. That’s me. The show is amazing. The design was brilliant. The score was brilliant. The underscoring, the orchestrations, the way that it was styled was I think a visionary approach and one that will be replicated. They’ll try to replicate that style. They continue to do that with MOTOWN and it’s success… BEAUTIFUL is another great show with it’s success… it’s all basic… it’s all JERSEY BOYS, the design and style of the show, and that goes all the way back to TOMMY. TOMMY was groundbreaking, it was the same director with a very similar design, very filmic, very visual, the use of projections, and concert audio. That’s the first time that was ever done to the extent that it was done because of TOMMY. Steve Canyon Kennedy who did just amazing work on JERSEY BOYS as well, he was part of TOMMY. So it’s just kind of creating a new view at Broadway, tying in that rock element which is now part of Broadway, but it wasn’t always.
And so then from that, from JERSEY BOYS, is the four of you now doing MIDTOWN MEN… you’ve taken the music from that show and other music from the 60s and created your own show. How did that idea first come up?
Well it first came about when we were in JERSEY BOYS we were asked to sing outside the show. We did concerts in Atlantic City. I’m in Biloxi, Mississippi now at a concert today. We’re working with The Golden Nugget around the country… Atlantic City, here in Gulfport, in Las Vegas this year. So it started going casinos and private parties. We were asked to do a party for the Jets, we were asked to do Katie Couric’s 50th birthday. But while we were in the show we couldn’t sing anything from JERSEY BOYS because we were under contract, so we couldn’t do that. We also chose not to do any Four Seasons songs just out of respect for Bob Gaudio, the writer and producer of all of the Four Seasons songs. So we started singing all of their competition… The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Motown, The Mamas & The Papas… you name it, we started singing. We said well we can bring Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to life like this with our sound… let’s find our sound in these other groups. So we started arranging music right away, and that was eight or nine years ago… something like that. We started arranging our own tunes, and with the help of some gifted contributors along the way we’ve managed now to… gosh we’ve orchestrated and arranged probably about fifty to sixty songs together all with that same idea that it’s four parts so we each get to step up and sing lead at different times, and that was our assignment we gave ourselves. Anyway, we started singing outside of JERSEY BOYS and we said hey this is pretty cool that we can sing other stuff and make people dig it.
When we all left the show we took about a year off to do some other things, and we got back together for a couple of concerts and we said hey let’s do this for real. Bobby joined us then and it was the four of us back together again who started this when we did it on Broadway together, and we went for it. It wasn’t easy. We had to carve out the ability to do it, we had to defend ourselves from not being able to do it. No one had ever done this before so they were afraid that this was going to be like some sort of a “Jersey Boys light” or something, but we had already been doing the act without any JERSEY BOYS references or JERSEY BOYS music or choreography or the script. And so we just kept doing what we had been doing all along, and everything worked out ok, but no one had ever done that before. No guys from a Broadway show had ever created their own brand and still connected it, because we knew that JERSEY BOYS was gonna be the hook and the interest and it still is to a point, but we needed to be able to represent that we were in JERSEY BOYS and also define ourselves as our own group. That’s what we set out to do, and we’ve been extremely successful beyond our initial dreams. Now we have dreams… we’re always putting dreams out in front of us of where we’re going, not where we come from. Although where we come from is very important to us, we continue to grow and change and grow with our fans’ idea of who we are.
It’s kind of tough being in part of something still that people have certain expectations and yet we’ve always broken the mold. We broke the mold when we created the show. It was not a jukebox musical, and we set out to show the world what we were and not try to show them what we weren’t. We knew what we were doing was different. It defied any sort of label. They wanted to label it as another jukebox musical if they could. The critics had their idea, but we knew we were doing what we set out to do, and that was to tell the story in a very new and unique way and we re-defined a failed model of jukebox musicals… The Beach Boys one, the Johnny Cash one, what else? There was about a dozen of them at the time and people said oh yeah we can do what MAMMA MIA! did and we can just clothesline… it worked for them so why don’t we just clothesline a bunch of songs together and we’ll either tell a fictitious story or we’ll kind of tell a half truth or we’ll create a story about it.
It wasn’t anything new or exciting or different, but what we did was tell a story that would stand alone with a brilliantly written book. Marshall Brickman wrote “Annie Hall” with Woody Allen, Rick Elice who was a genius Disney exec and advertising exec and former actor. They got together and they wanted to tell the underbelly, the behind the music story, and they did it in such a way that is foolproof so that you can go see a show no matter who is in it and that book is, I think, the new star of JERSEY BOYS. The original stars are gone now, right? And, those initial performances that put a stamp on a Broadway show… you can’t shake it. There’s always something that is going to be missing, but what we found was is what the producers of JERSEY BOYS found that you are able to let the book and the story be the new star of the show, and you could put anybody in there and it’s gonna be a pretty darn good show. That’s testament to a great book and a brilliant story and score.
What has been the best part about working with your JERSEY BOYS comrades again?
To hear the answer to that question, and many more, click here to visit the BroadwayWorld.com website and read the interview in its entirety.
And be sure to check out Christian and THE MIDTOWN MEN tomorrow night at the Mahalia Jackson Theater. Tickets and more information may be found at the theater website or check out The Midtown Men website for full concert information.
**I took a couple of liberties with the author’s post, adding my own picture and a few links**
“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.”
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»
Info: (808) 528-0506, hawaiitheatre.com
“…we could have our cake and eat it, too. You don’t have to be happy with the apple pie a la mode. You could try the blueberry cobbler.”
J. Robert Spencer
The best role of all? Themselves, say the Midtown Men
by Bruce R. Miller, Sioux City Journal
(excerpts, click here to read article in its entirety
How do four actors juggle Broadway careers and another identity as the Midtown Men?
“It comes down to timing,” says J. Robert Spencer, a Tony-nominated member of the group. “The Midtown Men usually have the summers off so we can try something then.”
Last summer, for example, the 45-year-old Spencer played Abraham Lincoln in a “wacky, Mel Brooks-style musical” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Throughout the year, he, Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard and Michael Longoria also have the ability to squeeze in appearances in films and television shows.
Too good to be true? Spencer wondered when the Midtown Men idea was posed.
“I was in ‘Next to Normal,’ which won the Pulitzer Prize and got me my Tony nomination, when my best friend called with the idea and said, ‘Do you want to go on the road?’”
Spencer talked it over with his wife and realized, “If we don’t try it, we’ll never know.”
Almost immediately, he says, they learned “we could have our cake and eat it, too. You don’t have to be happy with the apple pie a la mode. You could try the blueberry cobbler. It took off like wildfire.”
Now, the Midtown Men are nearing their 400th concert appearance. They’ve opened for Bruno Mars, performed at an oil tycoon’s birthday party, appeared on the White House lawn and recorded CDs and a PBS special.
“Broadway brought us rewards that every actor dreams of,” Spencer says. “But this has given us something more, something entirely different.”
“For the droves who come to see (us) as the Midtown Men, I’m Nick Massi from ‘Jersey Boys’ or I’m the husband in ‘Next to Normal.’”
A gritty musical, “Next to Normal” traced a woman’s mental breakdown and the effects it had on her family.
Spencer, who played the woman’s husband, says it was very tough emotionally. “After a week of it, I’d look at my wife and say, ‘I just need to cry.’ I needed an outlet, other than a stage, to deal with it.”
The show, he says, was so “rock solid,” it never felt difficult during performances. “It was a huge collaborative effort – from writing to acting to directing – and it was like being on a roller coaster. When you work with Alice Ripley (who won the Tony for her performance), you have to be on your toes. We connected as friends, as playmates, and that made the journey so rewarding.”
Spencer says he and the other Midtown Men are getting a kick out of relating to an audience as themselves, not some characters.
“When we get on stage and tell stories,” he says, “they’re our stories, not someone else’s.”
The Midtown Men will appear at WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa at 8 p.m. Oct. 10. Tickets are available by calling 800-468-9466.
“When I’m singing up there, I like to describe it as ‘singing on a cloud of air.’ It’s a whole new way to experience classic hits.” Michael Longoria
From ‘Jersey Boys’ to Midtown Men
Stars from the Broadway hit will join the Philly Pops for a benefit concert in Trenton
By Keith Loria
DATE POSTED: Friday, September 26, 2014 (excerpts – click here to visit the CentralJersey.com website and read article in its entirety)
FOUR original stars from Broadway’s smash hit musical Jersey Boys, who call themselves The Midtown Men, will put their harmonies to work in support of the patients and residents of St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center and Morris Hall, when they take to the stage at the Trenton War Memorial on Sept. 27.
Comprised of Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard, and J. Robert Spencer, The Midtown Men will join the Philly Pops to celebrate the hits from the ’60s era including tunes by the Beatles, The Beach Boys, Motown, The Four Seasons, and more.
“It’s pretty cool, because now you can hear these great songs played with a symphony and the audience really gets levitated with all those instruments,” Mr. Longoria says. “When I’m singing up there, I like to describe it as ‘singing on a cloud of air.’ It’s a whole new way to experience classic hits.”
While The Midtown Men do sing many of the songs from Jersey Boys, they also incorporate a great deal of other hits from the decade.
“They are pretty much songs that everyone knows the music to,” Mr. Longoria says. “With that era, even 8-year-old kids are singing along. All of them tell such a great story of human nature and those ’60s licks were so catchy, it’s really easy to catch on to those songs and sing along.”
Mr. Longoria admits that anytime they sing in New Jersey, it’s a special treat.
“There’s no audience like a Jersey audience. It’s like coming home and singing for your family,” he says. “When we opened on Broadway, NewJersey was such a full force of making ‘Jersey Boys’ the blockbuster that it was. The people there have always been so connected to Broadway but when ‘Jersey Boys’ opened, it became the crown jewel of the community and gave them some serious Jersey pride.”
The concert will be followed by a reception with Conductor Krajewski and The Midtown Men in the ballroom of the War Memorial for patrons and sponsors.
The concert is being held to benefit the patients and residents of St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center and Morris Hall. These facilities consist of St. Mary’s Assisted Living, Grace Garden Memory Care and St. Joseph’s Skilled Nursing Center.
“Now, I can approach all these great Frankie Valli songs and sing them in a whole new way, and that’s been a great adventure and challenge for me,” he says. “The night’s going to be a great deal of fun and we look forward to seeing everyone come out and join us for a great cause.”
The Philly Pops featuring the Midtown Men will perform at Patriots Theatre at the War Memorial, Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m. Click here for tickets, or call 215-893-1999
“To everything there is a season, and this is a season not to be missed.”
Posted: Friday, September 26, 2014 By MICHAEL ELKIN Correspondent/The Intelligencer/Doylestown, PA
(excerpts – click here to read article in its entirety)
The Midtown Men make their audiences of Uptown Girls and Downtown Dudes nuts for nostalgia.
Who can blame them?
This suave rock quartet is just so cool while collecting plaudits and applause from audiences around the country for their singing/entertaining style evocative of the 1960s.
Not that they haven’t had practice.
The Men — Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer — are four seasoned original cast members of the Broadway smash hit “Jersey Boys.”And while they left “Jersey Boys” years ago, “Jersey Boys” hasn’t left them. They still carry the tune, not just of the Four Seasons, but of the sweet-yet-swinging times that were the sultry ’60s. And in toting the past to the present, they are delivering a huge stage present to fans of music that soars and singes the heart.
Is it all just a matter of hanging on to what they got — or had — on Broadway? No, these Midtown Men — named after the epicenter of global theater, midtown Manhattan — pull from the past while pushing contemporary corners and borders. Their mix of Motown, core rock and rolling emotional ballads is a post-modern mash-up as distinctive as the entertainers’ individual talents.
And if there’s anyone who knows from unique voices, it’s “Jersey Boys” Tony Award winner Hoff: Even as he was involved with the original cast recording in his role as Tommy DeVito, he was setting records: Hoff recorded 241 separate voices — from Eddie Murphy to Joan Crawford — for the audio version of “Tell Me How You Love the Picture,” a memoir of movie producer Edward Feldman’s Hollywood life. In the process, Hoff earned a niche in the “Guinness World Records” for most character voices in an audiobook.Speaking to him now is to hear the voice of a 46-year-old family man happy on and off the stage, content on the sojourn that has taken him from “Boys” to Men.And he, just like the group’s fans, is wrapped up in the roar of the ’60s, when music “was a slice of life of America,” he notes.
“What you heard on radio was so diverse, so organic — the Beatles, the Association, Hendrix, and yes, the Four Seasons — there was something real about it,” he says.Getting real is to savor the retro ’60s, he claims, “which is still hip; everything you hear today feels like a throwback to then.”
Broadway’s Jersey Boys, The Midtown Men, to perform with The Philly POPS
by Allen Foster, Philadelphia Celebrity Examiner
May 12, 2014
Before The Midtown Men, Tony® Award-winner Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard, and Tony® Award nominee J. Robert Spencer were the original stars of the Broadway phenomenon “Jersey Boys.” With over 1,000 performances on stage together, this dynamic foursome has since expanded their repertoire to cover not only Frankie Valli, but all the greats from the 60s, as well. In a rare, special engagement, The Midtown Men will be shedding their regular seven piece band in favor of the 60 piece orchestral backing of the renowned Philly POPS! Under the sublime direction of conductor Michael Krajewski, the two entertainment powerhouses will unite to bring you a one of a kind, truly unforgettable show called “Sixties Hits” on May 16, 17, and 18 at Verizon Hall in The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, PA.
Examiner recently talked with Christian Hoff about The Midtown Men’s upcoming performances with The Philly POPS.
Examiner: When you come to The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, instead of your regular seven piece band, you are going to be playing with The Philly POPS! That’s pretty exciting!
Christian: It is! We are looking forward to it! This has been on the calendar for a long, long time. Philadelphia was just a real solid anchor early on when The Midtown Men were just beginning our venture into the symphonic world.
Examiner: Does this show contain The Midtown Men’s full repertoire? What can patrons expect?
Christian: What we decided to do with the symphonic shows was take our favorite songs from our set lists over the years and orchestrate them in symphonic fashion. The current show consists of about 60-70 minutes of our favorites.
Examiner: What kind of musical treats will be included in this show?
Christian: Well, when we were considering music for this show, we were really thinking about songs that we could orchestrate that would stretch some limits. For instance, from Ike and Tina Turner, we orchestrated “River Deep, Mountain High,” which was a Phil Spector song. It wasn’t necessarily a huge success for Tina Turner, but we loved the way that Phil orchestrated it with his Wall of Sound, so we said, “Why don’t we pay homage to that and do an actual wall of sound with an 85 piece orchestra?!” Another way we stretched the limits was when we did The Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” — which is one of our favorite songs that we perform — we added horns. Rarely does a band do a Beatles’ arrangement with horns. We’ll also be doing songs from The Mamas & The Papas, The Turtles, The Association, and, of course, The Four Seasons. We do a Motown medley which is just really, really fun to hear, it’s a big, big orchestrated funky groove that is unique and wonderful!
Examiner: What is the difference between The Midtown Men and an average 60′s music cover band?
Christian: The hook is we’re singing the great songs of the 60s, and that is what gets people in the seats, but we’re bringing something more to it. We’re bringing a fresh take on this classic music. We’re bringing a life to it in a way that isn’t just nostalgia or a tribute. We understand the music and the roots in a way that I don’t think a cover band really can because we are also all actors and we love the dramaturgy of this, too! You need the live band, you need the orchestra, and you need these lyrics to come to life in a new way, right in front of your very eyes. The beauty of live theater, live performance, and, in this case, live music. I think that aspect is what brings people to their feet as much as hearing their favorite songs.
Examiner: Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?
Christian: When we first set out to do this orchestrated version of our show, we knew The Philly POPS would be a milestone in our career. Philadelphia is just such a great music town! Also, as artists, one of the guys, Michael Longoria, worked quite a bit in Philadelphia, and our horn section is comprised of all Philly horns! So, we’ve come full circle. To be able to perform with The Philly POPS is a great mark of success. We look forward to celebrating that success with The Philly POPS this weekend. It’s going to be a celebration of Philly and music of the 60s all wrapped up in one!
Daniel Reichard discusses the Midtown Men “brotherhood”, among other things, with the Great Falls Tribune
excerpt from: ‘Midtown Men’ celebrates music of the ’60s at Mansfield Center next week
Written byJake Sorich, Great Falls Tribune Staff Writer
(click here to read interview in its entirety)
Keeping the spirit of that core group of “Jersey Boys” intact has helped create an organic, natural evening of entertainment, (Daniel) Reichard told the Tribune.
“We’re playing out our friendship on stage for people in a very comedic way,” he said. “It’s a funny friendship, a brotherhood, and we do a lot of making fun of each other and making fun of ourselves. I think people really enjoy getting to see what all these years of singing together does for us.”
“The Midtown Men” is a musical journey that brings to life the men’s favorite ’60s hits from The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Motown, The Four Seasons and more.
The familiarity they share with each other also extends to the music. Reichard said aside from the original artists, they’ve likely performed these hits more than anyone.
“Some of these songs we’re doing our own versions, and some of the songs we’re performing as Midtown Men are newer to us, but others we’ve literally sung thousands of times together on stage,” he said. “You could argue that you know, besides the Four Seasons themselves, we’ve sung some of these songs more than anybody else has.”
Reichard said the show isn’t as much a tribute performance as it is Broadway veterans performing their favorite songs with a “Rat Pack vibe.”
“Midtown Men,” the Broadway in Great Falls production, takes place Thursday at the Mansfield Center for the Performing Arts theater. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone at 406-455-8514 or at the door.