Tag: Jersey Boys

THE MIDTOWN MEN in concert … “nostalgic, high-energy event”

• February 4, 2013 • Comments (0)

“Jersey Boys” turn into “Midtown Men”

By Josh Rhoten
jrhoten@wyomingnews.com

“(The) Midtown Men” is the happy accident after “Jersey Boys.”

At least that is the simple way to explain things, Daniel Reichard says.

Reichard, along with Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria and J. Robert Spencer were the four stars of the original cast of “Jersey Boys.” That is the hit Broadway musical which followed the formation of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

The show was popular and with it the guys were asked to sing off stage at venues that included the White House and morning and late-night TV shows.

With that experience, and a growing bond of friendship, Reichard said the foursome decided to put together their own show with their own spin.

“We had all done other work by this point, but we decided to get back together and make our own show around other songs from the ’60s that we had been practicing and working with between shows and performances,” he said.

That turned into “The Midtown Men.” It’s a one-of-a-kind musical revue that finds the group singing hits from Motown, Beatles and other ’60s groups with a band and brass section backing it.

With the singers dressed in Rat Pack suits, along with the cufflinks and other details that made gentlemen of the era stand out, every performance is a nostalgic, high-energy event.

Reichard said a large part of that is due to the music they sing.

“These songs are like comfort food,” he said. “People know them and have great memories for them. There is honesty to the words and a beauty in the hooks that now three generations of people have connected with.”

Reichard said the group does take some liberties with the music, but it is still close to the originals.

“We make them our own to some degree,” he said. “But our style is also very distinct. I like to think we put an old-fashioned vaudeville show on for people with these sets.”

In addition to the songs, the group spends time on stage talking about their experiences on Broadway and the road. Reichard calls it a “dish session” about backstage life.

The “Midtown Men” have done about 200 shows together on top of the thousands of performances of “Jersey Boys.” That means they are familiar with each other. Almost too familiar.

“We get on each others’ nerves sometimes, but it’s like we are brothers,” Reichard said. “I would actually say this has made our friendships stronger.”

Their performance on Feb. 8 in Cheyenne will be the first-ever stop in Wyoming. Reichard said they are looking forward to it.

“We have played a lot of places over these years, so it’s kind of exciting to get into uncharted territory again,” he said.

Click here to visit the Cheyenne Civic Center website for ticket information.

Category: Concerts, Daniel Reichard, Media

View Post

The Midtown Men “Magic” Comes To Scranton

• January 7, 2013 • Comments (1)

‘Boys’ become men: Stars of Broadway’s ‘Jersey Boys’ make stop at Cultural Center as Midtown Men

BY CAITLIN HEANEY (STAFF WRITER), The Scranton Times-Tribune
Published: January 7, 2013

 

The magic started on the Broadway stage.

With each note Michael Longoria, Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer hit, they enchanted audiences night after night in the musical phenomenon that was “Jersey Boys.”

They mastered the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in that Tony Award-winning show, but the foursome soon discovered that wasn’t the only music upon which they could cast their spell. And now, shedding their “Jersey” alter-egos and performing together as the group The Midtown Men, they sing some of the 1960s’ most beloved songs.

“We’re getting to see the nation through the music, and that’s … a gift,” Mr. Longoria said by phone recently from New York City, where he lives.

And now it is Scranton’s turn to experience the Midtown Men, as Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania presents five performances from Friday, Jan. 18, to Sunday, Jan. 20, at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple. Audiences will hear not only songs by bands like the Beach Boys, the Beatles and Motown groups but also, of course, some Four Seasons favorites.

“‘Jersey Boys’ songs kind of made us who we are,” Mr. Longoria said. “That music in the Four Seasons really bonded us in a way that is unimaginable.”

 

Child’s play

Like many performers, Mr. Longoria’s interest in music and theater began as a child. Growing up in Hollywood, Calif., with a mother who was a singer and a father and brother who were especially comedic, he said, “music was always around.”

“My mom tells me that I was singing before I could form sentences,” Mr. Longoria said. “There’s pictures of me literally in diapers on a piano bench poking away at piano keys. It was just always around.”

After graduating from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a bachelor’s degree in drama – and after his first professional gig, as lead singer in the show “Dance, Dance, Dance at the Jump Joint” at Hersheypark – Mr. Longoria made his Broadway debut in the hit musical “Hairspray” with the legendary Harvey Fierstein.

“It’s never as scary as the first night,” Mr. Longoria recalled. “It was an amazing experience. … I also got to experience that rocking vibe of that success. That was kind of a blessing.”

Mr. Longoria left “Hairspray” after two years, and his next appearance on the Broadway stage came in 2005 when he originated the role of Joey in “Jersey Boys,” that tells the story of the Four Seasons’ success. He eventually took over the role of Frankie Valli.

“It was very beneficial to have all that YouTube footage and movie clips of everything that they had ever done,” Mr. Longoria said, adding how he then could hear how the original Four Seasons spoke and observe their tics. “And then, of course, once you kind of get all of that saturated in your head, you stand up and let it influence you. You don’t necessarily … mimic it.”
The real Mr. Valli even became a mentor to him.

“He gave me some great advice about the business,” Mr. Longoria said. “He was always very open to that kind of communication.”

 

Voices heard

So the world in which the Four Seasons lived could influence him, Mr. Longoria would warm up for shows by singing along to the music of other 1960s groups backstage. His castmates started coming over and joining him in song, and, after they were asked to perform at journalist Katie Couric’s birthday party, Mr. Longoria said, the Midtown Men were born.

“(The party) gave us an excuse to actually rehearse a number, and before we knew it, we had a whole set list,” he said.

While the singers have had other jobs since their stints in “Jersey Boys” ended, they have spent the last few years touring the country as the Midtown Men and sharing their music with towns that don’t always get to welcome Broadway tours.

“I love hearing the reaction when we sing ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ and ‘Sherry,'” Mr. Longoria said. “They don’t expect somebody literally being able to sing live in this crazy, high falsetto range.”

The Midtown Men have put out an album, released the single “All Alone on Christmas” this past holiday, appeared on numerous television shows and sang at December’s National Christmas Tree Lighting. Performing as the Midtown Men gives them a chance to show not the tough personalities they portrayed on stage in “Jersey Boys” but rather their true selves, Mr. Longoria pointed out.

“We’re like this new version of the Rat Pack,” he said. “We’re constantly jabbing at each other. We’re making jokes. We’re dancing our little tushes off. You get to know what we’re really like as people.”

 

What: Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania presents Midtown Men
When: Friday, Jan. 18, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 19, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 20, 1 and 6 p.m.
Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Details: Tickets are $39, $49 and $59 and are available at the box office, over the phone at 342-7784 or online at www.ticketmaster.com.

Category: Concerts, Media

View Post

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About THE MIDTOWN MEN

• December 28, 2012 • Comments (3)

This AWESOME, all-encompasing interview appeared on the CALL ME ADAM blog.  Everything you ever wanted to know about The Midtown Men…and then some!

1. Who or what inspired you to become performers?

J. Robert Spencer: Steve Martin and Johnny Carson were actually a big influence on me as far as comedians and as entertainers. I wanted to do what they were doing. Making people laugh and have a good time. Now I get to do that along with my other love, which is 60’s Rock And Roll.

Christian Hoff: I remember being kinda shy but having a great imagination and loved to pretend and loved music. I also loved being physical. I loved sports and riding my bike and running around and singing and dancing. When I got onstage for the first time and found that I could have all those things and be a storyteller too…I was hooked. I started pursuing every opportunity I could find to just do it. A reluctant but unwavering ham.

Michael Longoria: My mom sang in a band when I was growing up, so it started there watching those late night rehearsals. After that, Ritchie Valenz. The first song I ever sang for a public audience was “Oh Donna.”

Daniel Reichard: My first (and truest) idol that inspired me to do what I do (the way that I like to do it) was Steve Martin. I loved movies like The Jerk and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. Most especially, I would watch his appearances on Saturday Night Live, and his television specials. His work as a comic actor, especially in the 70s and 80s, was exceptional…He was dashing but the joke was always on him.

2. Who haven’t you worked with that you would like to?

J. Robert Spencer: I would love to do a play one day with Jeff Daniels.

Christian Hoff: Christopher Nolan as a director would be a great opportunity to couple a real life perspective with larger than life circumstances. Something I have always been drawn to as a person and an actor.

Michael Longoria: Stephen Sondheim…I’ve always been a huge fan of his work. Stephen, write me a song will ya???

Daniel Reichard: I love great directors…I’ve worked with a few–George C. Wolfe, Des McAnuff, among others. I would love to work with Susan Stroman and Graziella Danielle, among others.

3. You all starred in “Jersey Boys” together on Broadway, which I was fortunate enough to see. Looking back, what was the best part about starring together in this show?

J. Robert Spencer: Being able to say that we are a part of history by being one of the Original Stars, forevermore, in one of the biggest hits of all time!

Christian Hoff: The experience of having a character tailored to you was incomparable. Your essence and timing and inflection stamped forever in a script as brilliant as it is raw, like Marshall Brickman and Rick Elices. Having your performance shape a legendary production and then be recognized for your contribution, unforgettable and glorious. We all like to be liked and seek to be somehow indispensable in our lives and work. Now the molds they made with us are allowing other actors to explore themselves in our shoes, much like I did filling the shoes of the one and only Tommy DeVito.

Michael Longoria: Knowing that the four of us had each other at every moment. I never felt lost on the journey of the play cause the connection was so raw and real.

Daniel Reichard: Oh wow, there is so much to think about here. We were very lucky to grow together and discover both good and bad realities of show business in the center of this huge Broadway success. I did JERSEY BOYS for two years and three months, and it felt like we were the toast of the town the entire time. With that success came sacrifices and rewards, and we got to experience all of those things together.

3a. What made you want to continue on as The Midtown Men?

J. Robert Spencer: Being our own bosses, and running things our way!

Christian Hoff: A sublime addiction to the power of mixing dynamic personalities, sound and storytelling like we learned to do together led me back to the guys and our ability to do what we love most, entertain and share something great with each other and our audiences. The entertainers’ life, lived out to the fullest.

Michael Longoria: We continued getting requests to sing together and it felt good to keep the magic we created together in Jersey Boys going, especially with our debut album as The Midtown Men. We wanted to show what our sound could do on songs recorded by the other pop groups that sang in the same era as the group we portrayed on stage.

Daniel Reichard: Now it’s very similar with The Midtown Men; we are going on the rocket ride together all over again. We spend time away from our friends and family, we meet incredible fans, we do exciting shows, and we are STILL learning so much.

3b. How has your relationship strengthened over the years?

J. Robert Spencer: On Broadway you have separate dressing rooms to hide in IF you’re annoyed at one of your cast mates. When you’re side by side on the road as much as we are, you can’t hide and if you are having an issue with anyone on the team, you have to Man up, speak your mind, and try to do it as respectfully as sensitively as you can. Honesty is the only key to success and a stress free environment and we’ve all been really good at balancing that…and it’s made us stronger.

Christian Hoff: Our relationship has strengthened in love and commitment. It’s sort of like a family business whose success and sacrifice refines the bond and raises the stakes.

Michael Longoria: I think we know each other very well. We share hundreds of stages across America and every audience that come to see us sing leave knowing our friendship. That comes from being stuck on a 5 hr road trip to the next city!

Daniel Reichard: Our relationship strengthens every week…We thought we knew each other THEN, but boy do we know each other now. We have a brotherhood, and with all we have been through together, it is a sacred connection between us.

4. You’ve recently released your debut album as “The Midtown Men” called “Sixties Hits.” What excites you about this release?

J. Robert Spencer: That we did it our way all the way!

Christian Hoff: The music from our live show that made the album was distilled down through politics and passion. We wanted to capture the love and respect we have for one another and this incredible decade of music and give people a way to take the excitement and energy home with them.

Michael Longoria: That people get to hear us sing outside the box of being a character. In Jersey Boys I let Frankie Valli’s recordings and his video taped performances influence how I used my voice to portray his life and music…with the album I get to sing these songs how I would approach them. We get to reinvent them a little and spread it to groups like the Mamas and Papas.

Daniel Reichard: Well, this album really reflects our first year and a half on the road.  It is a time capsule for this period of our lives. We had just enough time to record some of the highlights of our show in the midst of a busy touring schedule. Most importantly, we funded, produced, distributed, and conceived this album ourselves. We love how we show what “The Midtown Men Sound” is…I always say, it’s great driving, treadmill, and making dinner music.

4b. What is it about this time in music that made you want to keep on singing it?

J. Robert Spencer: Because this era of music is universal and timeless.

Christian Hoff: No other decade of music has captured machismo and vulnerability like the Sixties did. It is dream to bring it to live every time we step up to the mic.

Michael Longoria: The men at that time really knew how to bare their souls on a song. I learn a lot from listening to those recordings, many of them done on a few takes.

Daniel Reichard: These songs truly speak to the romantic spirit of people, and we intend to energize and uplift people when we sing for them. The album is meant to reflect that intention.

5. What do you enjoy most about traveling the country on tour?

J. Robert Spencer: I love seeing America. I love meeting the people. I love playing these historic venues.

Christian Hoff: I enjoy the people.

Michael Longoria: Dominos Pizza!

Daniel Reichard: We have played big cities, small towns, and everything in between. It’s been fascinating to get a comprehensive tour of our country. We have played cities I would never have imagined visiting –Galveston, TX, Lafayette, LA, Cedar Rapids, IA and dozens and dozens of other cities and towns. I have loved gaining a broader perspective of the country. We are a little sheltered, a little “inside a bubble” in NYC, and it’s been refreshing. The fact that we get unanimous ovations at the end of our shows no matter where we are tells me are still in the game. We sign every autograph and take every picture after every show–It sometimes takes over an hour, but it is worth it. It is our way of thanking our audiences.

5a. What do you hope audiences come away with after attending your concerts?

J. Robert Spencer: A big smile.

Christian Hoff: A shared experience that is unforgettable and unique.

Michael Longoria: Joy, memories, and a soar throat!

Daniel Reichard: We are giving it our all, and our audiences give us their energy back.

6. This past summer you made your symphonic debut with the Houston Symphony. What did this occasion mean to you?

J. Robert Spencer: To originally start as 4 guys around a piano…to 4 guys with an 85 piece orchestra backing them?!? We were SO thrilled! Top of the world!

Christian Hoff: It was like wearing a new suit, with a vintage tie.

Michael Longoria: Huge accomplishment as performers, singers, entrepreneurs, and best friends.

Daniel Reichard: The Houston Symphony was PHENOMENAL. What a milestone for us. We were blown away by Jones Hall, and the 85 talented musicians that backed us onstage. It was surreal but it felt right. The response was exciting and sincere. We have symphony performances ahead of us in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Omaha.

7. You also made an appearance on Good Morning America this summer. What did you enjoy most about that?

J. Robert Spencer: Showing off The Midtown Men to millions of viewers! Also, the energy, excitement, and love for what we do and what we have accomplished as artists!

Christian Hoff: We reached 4.5 million new fans in an hour and had a blast just doing our thing.

Michael Longoria: Getting introduced to the nation as the Midtown Men.

Daniel Reichard: Again, Good Morning America was a milestone. It was great being on the Today Show when we were in JERSEY BOYS, but this felt so much more gratifying because the four of us, with our incredible team, got us to this occasion. We were on a ton that morning, and it was a great adventure.

8. What have you learned about yourselves from being performers?

J. Robert Spencer: That being a performer is where I am most comfortable.

Christian Hoff: Humility and pride are both necessary. You must be strong willed and teachable at the same time.

Michael Longoria: How to maintain the gift in the hardest of circumstances and the coldest and driest of climates. The show must always go on.

Daniel Reichard: You learn that our friendships are like our performances. You have to give effort and you have to learn to receive thanks. You have to be quiet and still sometimes, and other times you have to take the lead. You have to respect your audience and you have to respect your colleagues.

9. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

J. Robert Spencer: Whiskey and beer never fear…beer and whiskey now that’s risky!

Christian Hoff: Be yourself.

Michael Longoria: Don’t push. And don’t tank up on air…thanks Joan Lader 😉

Daniel Reichard: See this opportunity through!

10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be?

J. Robert Spencer: It would be wonderful to dream and visit with my great, great, great, great, grandfather and grandmother.

Christian Hoff: God.

Michael Longoria: My honey boo boo child.

Daniel Reichard: It would probably be Call Me, Adam 🙂

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Favorite way to spend your day off?

J. Robert Spencer: With my family.

Christian Hoff: Watching the kids play outside, my wife and I watching and sharing a drink and something good to eat.

Michael Longoria: Rosa Mexicano.

Daniel Reichard: I love walking my French Bulldog, Boscoe, through my neighborhood in downtown Manhattan, stopping into shops, and drinking iced lattes.

12. Favorite way to stay in shape?

J. Robert Spencer: Stretching on yoga ball.

Christian Hoff: Crossfit.

Michael Longoria: Not going to Rosa Mexicano 🙂

Daniel Reichard: You gotta mix it up. I love lifting weights, doing sprints on the treadmill or bike, and when I’m really strong, I swim laps.

13. Boxers or Briefs?

J. Robert Spencer: Hugo Boss Briefs!

Christian Hoff: Calvin Klein Boxer-Briefs.

Michael Longoria: It depends on how hot the party after the show is 😉

Daniel Reichard: Briefs. There’s no choice. That’s the way it needs to be.

14. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose?

J. Robert Spencer: To FLY!

Christian Hoff: Healing Factor like Wolverine or Jesus.

Michael Longoria: Flying.

Daniel Reichard: To fly, because I’m getting so sick of sitting on planes.

Click here to visit the Call Me Adam website to read complete bios of The Men.

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

View Post

J. Robert Spencer Talks About Becoming A ‘Midtown Man’

• November 24, 2012 • Comments (2)

While The Midtown Men are thrilling audiences in Brampton, Ontario, this weekend (2pm and 8pm today), the good people of Baton Rouge are anxiously awaiting their turn.  The Men will visit the River Center Theatre for one show only at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, November 26th.  Tickets are still available – click here for more information.

In anticipation of the show, John Wirt of the Baton Rouge Advocate, wrote a great article on The Midtown Men from J. Robert Spencer’s perspective.  The following are excerpts from that article. 

Broadway bond spawns vocal group

By John Wirt

Music writer

November 23, 2012

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

The Jersey Boys became the Midtown Men.

Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer, original cast members in the Tony-winning Broadway hit, Jersey Boys, performed more than a thousand shows in the musical based upon the 1960s pop vocal group, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons…

…Following their three-and-a half-year run as the Jersey Boys, Hoff, Longoria and Reichard formed the Midtown Men. Spencer moved on to another Broadway hit, Next To Normal, a Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner.

Once Next To Normal had run its course for Spencer, he got a call from his fellow former Jersey Boys.

“They’d been on the road with this group, the Midtown Men,” Spencer recalled. “They said, ‘We need the fourth original guy. We need you.’

“The timing was right,” Spencer said. “I had done Next To Normal for two years. I thought, ‘There’s not much more I can get out of this show. Midtown Men is something I can do with my best friends, singing songs of the ’60s, songs I love.’ Before I knew it, we were on stage together…”

…“The Midtown Men do the Four Seasons, but we do all these other great songs, too, like the Mamas and the Papas and the Turtles,” Spencer said. “We listen to those classic albums over and over again. You really do start living them. You start understanding the meaning of the songs more, and what was going on in the world when the songs were written.”

Spencer, having portrayed Four Seasons bass singer Nick Massi in Jersey Boys, can exploit his broader vocal range as a Midtown Man.

“Nick sang the iconic riffs from those hits,” Spencer said. “In ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry,’ he sang, ‘Silly boy, silly girl.’ So no one who saw Jersey Boys knew how much I can sing because they only heard the Four Seasons songs.”

The Midtown Men released their album debut, Sixties Hits, in 2011. The original Jersey Boys cast album, released in 2005, sold more than a million copies.

“That’s pretty crazy, for a Broadway actor to have gold and platinum records on his wall,” Spencer said…

The Midtown Men began their 77-city 2012-13 tour in August in Asbury Park, N.J. The group also is excited about its Christmas single, “All Alone On Christmas.” Steven Van Zandt, a member of Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band, produced this new version of the song, which he originally wrote for the Home Alone 2 soundtrack.

Van Zandt’s wife, Maureen, who’d seen the opening night of Jersey Boys and later attended Midtown Men concerts, encouraged her husband to work with the Midtown Men.

“We’re proud of the song and we’re proud of our relationship with Stevie,” Spencer said. “And my wife, she’s the biggest critic in the world, she’s been like, ‘Bobby, I cannot stop listening to this Christmas song!’ And our kids have it memorized. In my opinion, it could rank up there as one of those Christmas songs that people listen to every year.”

 (Download your copy of “All Alone On Christmas” here.  100% of proceeds from all downloads in 2012 will go to the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief.)

Category: Media

View Post

The Midtown Men … “Four ‘Seasoned’ Vets”

• August 15, 2012 • Comments (3)

The Midtown Men are everywhere this week!  Here is a fantastic article from the  “upperWETside blog” which includes a very insightful interview with Tony Award Winner Christian Hoff.

8/15:  Four Seasoned Pros Hit the Town

J. Robert Spencer, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and Christian Hoff are The Midtown Men — and the four seasoned veterans of Broadway’s JERSEY BOYS are working their way back to Jersey for a concert at Asbury Park’s Paramount Theatre this Saturday, August 18.

“Sherry.” “Candy Girl.” “Walk Like a Man.” “Dawn.” “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

We know ‘em as canonical catalogue classics from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the Garden State streetcorner-serenade city slickers (and Belleville’s answer to The Beach Boys?) about whom native Jerseyans can tend to be as proprietary as pork roll, pizza and pumping gas (not).

For a whole millennial generation of Broadway babies, however, these awesome poptunes — instantly ID’d through their clanking, thumping beat and the sci-fi falsetto beamed in from somewhere east of the final frontier — are the stuff that drives Jersey Boys, the jukebox juggernaut that became the hit of the 2005 season — and granted its original New York cast (including John Lloyd Young, the Tony winner who recently announced his return to the role of Frankie) the Vallidity of the real thing.

A few years back, four “seasoned” vets from that Broadway cast — including Christian Hoff (a 2006 Tony winner as Tommy DeVito), Daniel Reichard (who played the group’s songwriting mastermind Bob Gaudio), J. Robert Spencer (who portrayed Nick Massi) and Michael Longoria (who took over as Frankie Valli after originating the show’s part of young Joe Pesci) — got together for a touring project that would find them expanding on their 1960s pop bona fides, by tackling a bonanza of Billboard-toppers from the pre-Woodstock era.

Originally dubbed The Boys in Concert, the allstar act hit a serious snag in its momentum, when a legal challenge by the producers of Boys forced a name change before more than an initial handful of gigs were booked. Since rebranded as The Midtown Men, the guys retook to the road last year, and recorded a platter of Sixties Hits that finds them looking beyond Jersey to the exotic lands of Motown (Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar”), SoCal (The Mamas and the Paps’ “California Dreamin”) and the UK (The Zombies’ “Time of the Season”). This Saturday, August 18, the Men for All Seasons are joined by their seven-piece band for an Off Broadway/ On Boardwalk concert at Asbury Park’s Paramount Theatre.

Produced by Sammy Boyd, the 8pm event will dedicate portions of proceeds to the (recently relo’d to Asbury) Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth & Middlesex Counties — and, as per the specs of the settlement, it will NOT be a performance of, or in any way connected to, the smash musical that gave these four singing actors their big break.

UpperWETside talked to Hoff — a busy character actor, narrator and vocal artist who actually got HIS first big break as the young voice of the Hanna Barbera toon Richie Rich! — in the middle of a tour schedule that will take the Midtowners from Green Bay to Asbury to Missouri, with big-time New York TV ops along the way. Let’s hang on…

A Tony winner for JERSEY BOYS — and, among many other credits, the cartoon voice of Richie Rich — Christian Hoff has logged hundreds of billable hours playing lawyers on UGLY BETTY and LAW & ORDER: CI, a credit that may have come in handy during the Midtown Men’s past legal hassles.

 

upperWETside: When we first became aware of your act, through our meeting and talking to Michael Longoria a few seasons back, we understood that you guys were originally being billed as The Boys In Concert — but the JERSEY BOYS people put a quash on that in court. Coming as it did so early in your collaborative career, how did the whole lawsuit thing serve to crystallize the concept of what you were doing? Did it change things much from what you were doing at the outset? And where does the MIDTOWN MEN name come from anyway?

CHRISTIAN HOFF: It’s an easy jump from being Boys to something else — and we weren’t boys anymore, so the Midtown Men name reflected our hardworking, middle class roots; commerce and art…and it referred to where we all first met, in midtown Manhattan.

The whole lawsuit experience served to bring us together as people and as artists. Any differences we may have had just fell away. We were fighting for our lifeblood; our right to perform in the style that we were known for. The whole thing was very high stakes — but it was never personal. Our position was that we just wanted to entertain, and bring these songs to life.

So the four of you control your own collective brand?

We’re all equal partners in the show…which can be about the perils of democracy on the one hand, but also about how much we behave as a family. We get to argue over everything from the horn arrangements, to the PR, and the type of socks we’re wearing. But, we’re the kind of trained entertainers who can sing through fatigue, sing through anything…and everything that we’ve been through has been a learning experience.

I’m hoping you’re all in agreement about continuing on with those 60s sharkskin suits. You guys look real slick on stage, although I’m sure you’ve all sacrificed a degree or two of comfort for the team…

We did a gig in Delaware where it was about 90 degrees, with 85 percent humidity…you know it’s hot up there when the color of your suit changes from light blue to deep purple. But we enjoy yukking it up in those suits, you know…something about wearing those clothes keeps you focused, keeps you in the period. There’s a certain gravitas to it, like wearing the uniform of a great ball team.

With the necessary disclaimers that the Midtown Men show is not JERSEY BOYS — and with the implicit understanding that your act attracts a lot of its audience from the many thousands of JERSEY BOYS fans out there — how much of what you’re doing in concert is you being the Actor, or you being the Singer? 

The show that we’re doing is great because it allows you to hear our ‘rock’ voices. And as an actor, I was hired based on my ability to bring a character to life, to play a real person. We’re all actors, and the musicians that we work with understand how we feel about it…we’re used to working on Broadway, with all the multimedia aspects, the sets and costumes. Between the four of us, we’ve done over a thousand performances on Broadway — and we’re on track to do over 140 gigs this year. We go into a show like the Super Bowl, where you know the plays going in, and now you get to execute it in real time.

But the bottom line is that this is not a tribute act; it’s not the four of us acting in character…it’s about our sound and the music that we love, how we connect to it, and how that transmits to the audience. Working together for as long as we have, we have fun trying something new…and we can still pull off some incredible things; very in the moment, but still prepared.

With that in mind, I wanted to ask whether you’re constantly tweaking the set list of the show; whether you had any new, or new-old, material that you were trying out on tour. Any surprises in store for the Paramount?

We do adapt the show as we go along. We need to ask ourselves, when we’re kicking around a particular song to introduce into the show, does it resonate? How does it fit in with the show?

It’s fun to try something new…we just finished an arrangement of the Tina Turner song “River Deep Mountain High,” which we rehearsed when we were in Wisconsin. And when we do GMA we’ll also do this thing with ABC.com; a nine-minute Motown medley where we perform seven great Motown classics.

We’ll be doing that one at the Asbury Park show…and if you’re wondering how we pick just seven, we each start with our favorites, then we bring them to the table as a quartet, then bring them to the band — with the ultimate goal of performing them in front of a live audience. We whittled down a list of 20 into 15, then 10, and then 7.

I’m particularly interested in how you came to integrate The Zombies’ “Time of the Season” into the act…it’s a pretty intriguing choice, with a jazzier kind of sound that kind of pointed the way toward prog rock when it came out.

Daniel fell in love with the Zombies song, which absolutely fits my voice…there’s a cool vibe to it; very different from the other things we’ve been doing. The band really has fun with it, too…from the moment the audience hears (imitates the song’s familiar bass-and-percussion intro) they’re into it.

Of course you’re still doing a healthy amount of Seasons stuff, but have you deeper into their catalogue; checked out some of the obscurities and noble experiements? Not that I’m suggesting you perform the entire GENUINE IMITATION LIFE GAZETTE album…

Like so many groups that existed for such a length of time, they left a lot of masterpieces, and some stinkers as well. But they, Bob Crewe, Bob Gaudio, really stretched their wings, took a lot of chances. And I love ‘em all.

Any plans to record a followup album yourselves? And what might you do differently than on the first Midtown Men album, if you had your druthers?

The first album was done on the fly, in chunks — we’d have one day off and come to New York, hole up in the studio for the day and duke it out. The four of us would literally be listening to mixes while we were traveling in the car, on the plane, at the airport. It would be the only time and place where all of us would be listening to the same thing, on the same device, the same speakers.

For next year’s record, I’d like to try a different sort of approach…it would be great to do things completely old-school, with all the musicians in one place at one time, so that everyone performs with the awareness of the other people around them. And you’d hear the room.

That’s what I love about listening to a phonograph record, too…you hear the room; the whole listening experience is different depending on the record player, the needle, the place where you’re doing the listening. The minute the needle drops, you’re on a journey. I have a 17 year old son who agrees with me completely; who’s really into vinyl records!

That kind of sums up the attitude of the band also…we’re analog champions in a digital world!

Switching gears here, I understand that when you’re not onstage or on camera you’ve been maintaining a pretty happening career as a voice actor — and that you hold the Guinness World Record for highet number of different voices done for a single project (the project was the audiobook of producer Ed Feldman’s TELL ME HOW YOU LOVE THE PICTURE, for which Hoff performed as some 241 different characters)…

It’s fun for me to bring characters to life; it’s part of just being light on my feet, being a jack of all trades and skillsets and mindsets. And I’ve been doing it since I was the voice of Richie Rich in the cartoons…I worked at Hanna Barbera, where I’d hear people like Chuck McCann, Frank Welker doing dog voices; walking around hearing all these voices for The Flintsones, Jetsons, Scooby Doo up and down the hall!

I have to tell you, the same year that I was up for a Tony I was nominated along with Jim Dale in the same category. And that was around the same time that I got the world record for the voice project, which prior to that had been held by Jim Dale, for his recording of The Lord of the Rings. At the Tonys I joked with him that ‘I got you beat on that voice thing, too’ — and of course I never even prepared a speech for the possibility of my winning Best Featured Actor.

But as far as winning awards, breaking all-time records…none of it beats the fact that you’re allowed to do what you love to do. And occasionally you get a kiss on the cheek; you get to cross the finish line and break the tape!

********************

Tickets for the August 18 performance by The Midtown Men are priced from $39 to $79,  and are available by calling (732)897-6500, or visiting Ticketmaster. You can catch Hoff and company on ABC’s Good Morning America this Thursday, August 16; The Men are also scheduled to appear on New York Live, airing on WNBC-TV Channel 4 this Friday, August 17 at 3pm.

Category: Media

View Post

Reminiscing on Favorite Tony Moments

• June 11, 2012 • Comments (2)

Watching last night’s Tony Awards show has me reminiscing on some of my favorite Tony moments:

In 2006, Christian Hoff won a Tony Award for “Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical”, and his acceptance speech has been a youtube favorite ever since.

Also in 2006, the cast of Jersey Boys put on a wonderful performance, and it was obvious why they later took home the Tony for “Best Musical”.

J. Robert Spencer was nominated for “Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Musical” at the 2009 Tony Awards. His performance on the show that night proved why.

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

View Post

The Midtown Men Thrill in Dubuque

• May 19, 2012 • Comments (1)
“It was a testament from these four musical ambassadors — the uplifting power of truly great music performed by truly great talent never fades.”
This is what Midtown Men fans love to hear:  a reporter who GETS IT, just as we do.  Oh What A Night it was in Dubuque!

Midtown Men croon at the Mississippi Moon

The foursome treats 2 sold-out audiences to a nostalgic trip back to the hits of the 1960s.

 BY MEGAN GLOSS, Telegraph Herald staff writer

It was a night of sweet nostalgia and a groove down memory lane as the soaring sounds of four-part harmony, ’60s-styled, filled every crevice of the Mississippi Moon Bar on Friday, sending chills through the crowd.

The Midtown Men Michael Longoria (from left), Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer perform one of their two concerts Friday night at the Diamond Jo Casino's Mississippi Moon Bar

The Midtown Men took the stage for two sold-out performances, featuring high-energy and more crooning hits than one might think possible to pack into an hour-and-a-half show.

The Midtown Men reunites the four original stars from Broadway’s “Jersey Boys” — Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer — who performed alongside one another for more than 1,000 shows on Broadway. The hit juke-box musical opened in 2005 and won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

While the show told the story of The Four Seasons and heavily featured the music of the famed quartet, The Midtown Men’s performance — now in its second year of touring the country — served as a musical smorgasbord of ’60s vocal groups, with a sprinkle of casual humor, favorite memories from “Jersey Boys” and stories of their most recent stints on the road.

The audience was made up primarily of those who grew up with the music of the ’60s.

From the show’s opening medley, “Let’s Hang On,” “Working My Way Back to You” and “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” to soul-inspired Motown renditions and the sing-along encore, “Oh, What a Night,” the four singers effortlessly transitioned from tune to tune, letting their voices and tight harmonization bask in the warm glow of the limelight.

“During ‘Jersey Boys,’ we naturally fell in love with the greatest decade of music,” Spencer said, accompanied by bursts of cheers and applause. “Back stage, in the dressing room, we started working out the harmonies to our favorite groups from the ’60s until it gave birth to a show of our own. We’re having the time of our lives.”

The foursome really shined on The Four Seasons selections, “Dawn,” “Candy Girl,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Sherry,” each featuring Longoria’s high soaring vocals, channeling Frankie Valli. His voice also was well-suited for a young Michael Jackson on the Jackson 5 hit, “I Want You Back.”

Patrons treated the group to a standing ovation and were singing in the aisles after the show, grinning from ear to ear.

It was a testament from these four musical ambassadors — the uplifting power of truly great music performed by truly great talent never fades.

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

View Post

“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

View Post

Imagining The Midtown Men Performing A Favorite

• May 16, 2012 • Comments (5)

The Midtown Men made American musical theater history in the Original Broadway Cast Of Jersey Boys, and midtown man Christian Hoff charted the course with fellow stars-on-the-rise Alice Ripley, Michael Cerveris and Norm Lewis in Broadway’s The Who’s TOMMY

Click here to check out broadwayworld.com’s 2012 Tony Awards Countdown.

Donnie Kehr and Christian Hoff, 'Pinball Wizard'

‘Pinball Wizard’ has been on my mind recently after hearing it several times  on the radio in the last week.  Each time I hear it, I am transported back to the August Wilson Theatre, December, 2008.  No, not Jersey Boys, but my “other” top Broadway experience – Christian Hoff and Donnie Kehr (along with the entire original cast) seriously rocking that song and blowing away every person in that packed house during Rockers on Broadway’s  The Who’s TOMMY reunion concert.  What an unbelievable experience that show was!

I’ve been imagining Christian Hoff rocking out ‘Pinball Wizard’ once again, only this time accompanied by Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer.  How cool would that be?!?

Have you been imagining The Midtown Men performing a favorite song of yours as well? If so, let’s hear about it.  I’ll send a Midtown Club souvenir to the people who post the songs and/or stories I like best!

‘Pinball Wizard’ was performed on Glee recently – click to listen.

Category: Christian Hoff, The MUSIC

View Post

The Midtown Men Hit Canada

• February 16, 2012 • Comments (0)

The Midtown Men played the first of three shows at the McPhillips Casino in Winnipeg last night. From there, it’s on to the Casino Regina (in Regina) for their last stop in Canada.

Check out the concert calendar to see where they’ll visit next. And check out this fabulous write-up in today’s Leader-Post:

Midtown Men freshen up classics

Show adds new twists on old hits

By Barbara Woolsey, The Leader Post

For four Broadway actors, Jersey Boys was just the beginning.

And some beginning it was – the production is one of the biggest musicals of all time, winning multiple Tony awards and spawning over a thousand performances.

Now, a few former cast members are embarking on a new adventure. This time, not as Franki Valli and the Four Seasons, but as The Midtown Men.

“We started singing together outside of the show, just for fun in our dressing rooms, for private parties,” explained group member Christian Hoff. “After we left (Jersey Boys), we really missed singing with each other and the unique bond that we had in the music . and what it’s brought us is more than a concert act, but completely beyond anything that we did portraying the Four Seasons.”

Hoff along with Daniel Reichard, J. Robert Spencer and Michael Longoria, sing music from the likes of the Beatles, Beach Boys, and of course, Franki Valli. The biggest challenge, said Hoff, is trying to fully capture the era in a 90-minute show.

The hits are classic, but done with a fresh take. It’s that approach that’s being applauded by not only those who grew up with the music, but the new generation.

“What we do on stage, it’s very Rat Pack meets Mad Men, ” explained Hoff, who portrayed Tommy DeVito in the musical. “Old school, off the cuff. You know, we even rip each other. We bring our hearts to the music.”

Now, The Midtown Men are touring North America …

“We have to pinch ourselves constantly,” said Hoff. “Here we are in front of thousands of people and they’re standing and cheering for us as individuals and as artists and singers, not as the characters we played in Jersey Boys. That’s a great surprise.”

Such an accomplishment hasn’t come easily.

“We’ve turned down Broadway, TV and film to try and do this,” explained Hoff. “There have been great sacrifices . but what we’ve said no to has been eclipsed by the success we’ve had.”

The Midtown Men recently recorded an album called Sixties Hits and plan to hit the studio again soon. The band is also collaborating with orchestras in Canada and the U.S., to add another dimension to its live performance.

“The tension that keeps us together is like that of brothers or teammates,” said Hoff. “But when it comes to the music of the 1960s, we know that we are stronger together. It’s being together that’s blowing us up.”

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

View Post