Tag: Mamas and the Papas
Midtown Men bring 1960s back
By Stacy Nick StacyNick@coloradoan.com
Christian Hoff may be California born and bred but to the rest of the world, he’ll always be a Jersey Boy.
“We knew right away that we were part of something very special and that these roles were larger than life,” said Hoff, who was one of the original four from the Broadway hit musical tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, “Jersey Boys.” “People just identify with each of us as these characters.”
Now Hoff is getting a bit of déjà vu from his new role with his “Jersey Boys” co-horts Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and Tony Award nominee J. Robert Spencer as The Midtown Men.
“Now it’s like we’re doing what we pretended to do as Jersey Boys,” Hoff said. Rather than portraying a vocal foursome entertaining thousands of fans, the Midtown Men are a vocal foursome performing hits from the 1950s and ’60s. The group will bring its show to Lincoln Center Saturday as part of the venue’s grand re-opening celebration.
“Sometimes we really have to pinch ourselves,” said Hoff, who put his voice to work in cartoons and audio books (he holds the Guinness World Record for most voice characters in a single audio book with a whopping 241 for “Tell Me How You Love the Picture”), before hitting it big with “Jersey Boys.” “We knew we were on to something really special but we had no idea the rocket ride that it was going to be.”
Hoff began acting at the age of 8, performing with the San Diego Junior Theater. Later he got bit parts on television but it was on the stage where he really was making a name for himself. In 2005 he was cast as one of the original “Jersey Boys. ” The show quickly took off, earning numerous Tony Awards; meanwhile, on their off hours the Boys would practice singing other songs from the era. What started as just having some fun in the dressing rooms soon became a new career path.
The four were asked to perform at various events, including Katie Couric’s 50th birthday and the Yankees’ Joe Torre. After wrapping up more than 1,000 performances on Broadway run, they stepped down from their formal “Jersey Boys” roles and did several shows as “The Boys in Concert”; after legal action from the show’s creators, the “Boys” became “Men,” booking tours of their own and even recording a CD. “The Midtown Men: Sixties Hits” was released last month.
Choosing songs from such prolific musical eras wasn’t easy, Hoff said. Each of the Men had a hand in picking songs that fit their vocal stylings and would resonate with audiences.
“We didn’t set out to just be a tribute act or just bank on hits from the ’60s,” Hoff said. “We wanted to do something different; put our own spin on these timeless songs.
“We feel this is our music as much as the original artists because of that investment,” he added.
So how does a guy who wasn’t even born until 1968, find his voice there?
I started getting into ’60s music when I was in high school, said Hoff, who alternated the Beatles with Boston and Frankie Valli with Van Halen.
“My friends thought it was weird but that era really resonated with me,” he said. ”It had everything — from the British invasion to folk to psychedelic. There’s something so deep and diverse about this music, you can really live in it and it’s like a full-course meal.”
As for why audiences are responding so well to the era’s music now, Hoff said it’s a sound that just never really went away.
“These songs are as strong now as ever — they’re even better than any contemporary songs that we could find now,” he said. “Again, it’s that diversity. Whether you’re a clean cut “Mad Men” type or into the social change aspect … there’s something for everybody.”
The Midtown Men aim to celebrate all of that diversity. Their Rat Pack-styled shows include a mix of stories mixed with songs from Motown to the Beach Boys to the Beatles; right now the Men are even working on a segment of girl group songs, and while Hoff doesn’t want to divulge too much about the new set he said it will honor some great songs that the Men felt they could pull off “without putting on dresses.”
But who knows? The Midtown Women might just be the next big thing.
Former ‘Jersey Boys’ go all-American
Midtown Men bring ’60s music to Lincoln Center on cross-country tour
By Joyce Davis Special to the Reporter-Herald
Posted: 09/09/2011 04:03:08 PM MDT
It’s a sunny Saturday outside a local diner in Huntingdon, Tenn. Michael Longoria, J. Robert Spencer, Christian Hoff and Daniel Reichard have finished breakfast and are posing for photo-snapping fans, who will take in their musical tribute to the ’60s that night. It’s one of the group’s stops on their way to Fort Collins to celebrate the Lincoln Center’s grand opening Sept. 17.
In a phone interview, Longoria says the Midtown Men’s cross-country tour is defining. “We’re like the soundtrack of America; that’s what the journey means to us.”
The four definitely have bragging rights to their jump and jive all-American ’60s sound that includes top hits from The Beatles, Beach Boys and Temptations. Featured in the original Broadway cast of “The Jersey Boys,” the four brought life to the iconic story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons for nearly 1,000 performances.
Following “Jersey Boys,” the four played benefits and private parties, honing a harmony of their own and blending their individual personalities. As the Midtown Men, they’re finishing up a 70-city national tour and celebrating the release of their first CD, “The Midtown Men: Sixties Hits.”
“It’s been great to sing outside the show,” says Longoria, who originated* the Frankie Valli role. “Now we’re able to sing our favorites from that rock era the way we want to. In ‘Jersey Boys’ I was playing Frankie, which is very different from the real Michael Longoria. Now, all the facade is taken away and stripped down to who I am as a performer. We’re all very different from the roles we played on Broadway. Now we’re off the cuff and having a lot of fun doing it our way.”
Longoria and Spencer credit their moms for their love of rock ‘n’ roll. “I’m thankful my mom played the oldies,” Longoria says. ”I think the music from the ’60s had it all. The melody made you jump and move around and the lyrics told a story that spoke to you about life and love.”
For Spencer, it brings memories of a young boy in Texas. ” My mom couldn’t afford a sitter, so she took me everywhere in the car and let me listen to anything I wanted on the radio. I always chose the classic station and to this day, I hear a certain song and I’m back in that yellow station wagon. I think the same thing happens when people hear us. These songs connect people all over the world.”
Longoria tells of performing recently in Arkansas. “We walk out on stage and the first person I see is a 9-year-old boy holding our CD, wearing a Midtown Men hat and singing every word from ‘Working My Way Back to You.’ That tells me the music still crosses all ages.”
The Midtown Men take the audience back to the roots of rock ‘n’ roll. “We’re exploring a repertoire of music that maintains the same energy that was there when the songs were written,” Longoria says. “We go out on that stage and we feel as timeless as the songs.”
Spencer is thrilled to explore the genre. “I love what Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young did. They were so eclectic and we try to be that way in our show. These were great bands exploring a new kind of music with no boundaries, no rules. They were free to re-invent and write music with their own personality and passion — all with a twist.
“We try to do that in our concerts. We do some Mamas and the Papas and a great Motown medley that brings the house down. That’s what it’s all about. We were blessed to work on Broadway, and now we’re blessed to have the opportunity to rejoin each other and do our own thing, our own way, on our own time.”
Longoria says his story is akin to living a real-life ’60s song. “I’m from California and at 17 I had a scholarship to NYU. I was scared to death, but I thought if I didn’t jump at the chance to make music my life then I never would,” he says. ”I was a young, delusional teen with dreams bigger than myself that eventually came true.”
The Midtown Men are delighted to kick off the Lincoln Center’s grand opening. “It will be an amazing thing to put on the first show there,” Longoria says.
Spencer says the music is upbeat and electrifying. “We have so much fun, I can tell you the Fort Collins audience will have smiles on their faces that go from east to west.”
* Michael Longoria actually originated the role of Joe Pesci, later moving into the role of Frankie Valli.
THE MIDTOWN MEN, Four Stars from the Original Cast of Jersey Boys, Release Long-Awaited Debut Album
New York, NY (PRWEB) August 25, 2011
While THE MIDTOWN MEN–Tony Award winner Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and Tony Award nominee J. Robert Spencer–have been thrilling concert audiences in over 70 cities across the U.S. and Canada, they have also been busy in the recording studio. The group’s eagerly-anticipated debut album, THE MIDTOWN MEN : SIXTIES HITS, featuring classic songs from the 1960s, is now available at THEMIDTOWNMEN.com.
Their musical journey began when they starred together in the Original Cast of Broadway’s Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The four actors shared the stage for over a thousand performances and can be heard on the Grammy Award-winning, multi-platinum-selling Original Cast Album. Michael Longoria, of the Midtown Men, recalls his time crooning with his future band mates, “We found our own unique sound and chemistry recreating the music of the Four Seasons for the Broadway stage and we continue to discover the magic of that truly amazing era in rock music.” About their debut album, the group’s J. Robert Spencer explains, “We wanted our listeners to experience the sound and electricity of our live show. So get ready!”
Charles Alexander, long-time senior editor for Time Magazine writes, “This new Fab Four became rock stars in their own right. THE MIDTOWN MEN put their own youthful spin on these ageless songs. They are helping the pop composers of the ’60s take their rightful place in the Great American Songbook. And how much do I love this album? It’s as good as popping Meet the Beatles on my turntable for the ﬁrst time!”
THE MIDTOWN MEN : SIXTIES HITS features iconic classics such as “Happy Together,” “California Dreamin’,” “Up on the Roof,” “Sherry” and more. The album’s release comes at the kickoff of the group’s 2011/2012 performing arts center national tour. Visit THEMIDTOWNMEN.com for tour information and to purchase their new CD.
‘Jersey Boys’ Grow Up
Midtown Men hit the road with ’60s music and style
by Becca Bacon Martin
What’s Up Editor, Assistant Features Editor
Northwest Arkansas Newspapers
We’re living the dream,” Christian Hoff says simply. “We look at each other on stage and say, ‘Wow, this is real.’ We have to pinch ourselves.”
It’s not that Hoff wasn’t successful before he became one of the Midtown Men. He was named “The Master of Mimicry” by Entertainment Weekly and has voiced more than 200 characters for audio books, surpassing the record of any other actor. With musical colleagues — J. Robert Spencer, Michael Longoria and Daniel Reichard — he spent three years on Broadway in “Jersey Boys,” winning a Tony Award and Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle award nominations.
“The journey to the Tony was one of great patience and fortitude, as my grandmother would say. Work as an actor is so much about the craft and the process, I didn’t see it coming,” he says.
But in Midtown Men, the four performers are “not portraying characters,” Hoff says. “This is us. We get to live out the very story that we played on Broadway — kids from across the tracks, rags to riches. That’s our story now.”
The idea of the Midtown Men was conceived backstage at “Jersey Boys,” where Hoff and his co-stars started singing music beyond the Four Seasons’ songs featured in the play.
“We put everything we had learned in preparing for ‘Jersey Boys’ and the sound we had developed doing eight shows a week into songs by the Beach Boys, the Righteous Brothers, the Jackson Five, the Beatles,” Hoff says.
The quartet sang for Katie Couric’s 50th birthday party, Hoff says, but after their run in “Jersey Boys” ended, each went on to something else. “After about a year, we were asked to perform together again, and it was as if no time had passed,” Hoff remembers. “Our chemistry, our sound, was more evident to us with a little perspective. And we decided it was time to start booking a tour.”
Performing as a musical group is something new for all four of the Midtown Men, Hoff says. His first passion was acting.
“The moment I knew was the moment I stepped on a stage, playing Tom Sawyer,” he says. He was 9, living in San Diego, Calif. “I remember going out there and getting lost in the storytelling of it, just me and an empty theater. Then, when you get a theater full of people and it comes alive, that’s when you get hooked.
“From then on, I stretched myself into new things — dancing, singing, voiceovers: I was the voice of Richie Rich in the Hanna-Barbera cartoons when I was younger. You just throw yourself into stuff and see what you can’t do.”
Apparently Hoff hasn’t failed at anything yet — he’s also the father of five children ages 16 years to 4 weeks — but he’s still learning new things about touring.
“I didn’t expect the unique and unified response we get in each town we play,” he says. “Whether it’s a small town in Montana or Chicago, there’s this buzz created by where we come from but also from the interest people have in this music.
“We’ve all heard these songs thousands of times, but how fresh they are and how fresh the response is, it’s amazing.
“Now that we are sort of ambassadors to the ’60s decade, we find it resonates with young people and old people alike,” he says. “These are songs about something — social change, class issues, unrequited love — brought to life by young guys with new passion and perspective.
“This is everything we played out in ‘Jersey Boys’ come to life.”
Run, don’t walk, to see the Midtown Men
BY ELIZABETH OGUSS
OF THE MONTCLAIR TIMES
Thursday June 30, 2011,
One sign of a good show is when audiences leave the theater humming.
Four stars from the original cast of “Jersey Boys,” the Tony Award-winning musical about the Four Seasons, are still performing together.
But now they’re the Midtown Men and they’ve branched out: they sing the 1960s.
The Midtown Men — Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard, and J. Robert Spencer — are not affiliated with “Jersey Boys,” but the energy and showmanship they brought to Broadway is now poured into a stage show they’re bringing to Yogi Berra Stadium on July 9 in a family-friendly event with Joe Piscopo as master of ceremonies. Proceeds will benefit the educational programs of the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center.
“Jersey Boys” was built on the Four Seasons’ distinctive sound. The Midtown Men have taken that sound and “applied it to all the groups and great icons of the 60s,” Hoff said.
The Midtown Men sing it all, or almost all.
“We wanted to pick the most famous memorable iconic songs of the ’60s,” said J. Robert Spencer, who’s known as Bobby, “to put in our act that would allow people to reflect back. … The songs of the 60s are so resonant today,” he said.
Their repertoire includes songs by the Mamas and the Papas, Beach Boys, Neil Sedaka, and the Turtles, among others. Longoria, a tenor who played both Joe Pesci and Frankie Valli on Broadway, still has plenty of opportunities to sing falsetto.
The group has just recorded an album of their own arrangements of classic songs.
“In the studio we go back and forth on what kind of envelope can we push in terms of new energy and new approaches to the music, and still maintain the integrity of these classic songs,” Hoff said. ”We have a hybrid goal: old music with a new twist and new music with an old twist.”
“Christian always says we’re ambassadors to the ’60s music, doing it for real. Not just as a cover band but really taking on these songs as if we were there,” Longoria said. Longoria won’t give his age, but says he’s the baby of the group. The others are in their early 40s.
“How do we do this and do it justice?” Longoria said. ”That’s what our fans enjoy and we enjoy doing that too.”
On stage, the four performers play themselves.
“We’re realizing that we ourselves are the characters and the story is our own,” said Hoff. “We’ve grown as four men in ways that you can only do by going through the fire, by really pursuing … the dream, which for us is to sing and tell our story and make people happy. We’re entertainers,” he said.
“There’s a line in [Jersey Boys] that we live by,” Hoff said. ”You don’t forget where you come from.
“‘Jersey Boys’ transformed our lives, individually and together, and continues to do that,” he said. “The work that we did in the show — four guys come together to … portray characters that were larger than life but full of humanity, and this great story and this great music combining with that real-life stuff — has carried into our own lives.”
Longoria says every Midtown Men show is different.
“You never know what you’re going to get as far as personality on the stage,” he said. ”We have so many stories that come out of the air.
“You know when someone’s going to go on a tangent or you know when to interrupt them,” he said, laughing. ”It’s like a vaudevillian experience.”
Hoff, Spencer, and Longoria all agree that the Midtown Men genuinely enjoy one another’s company. That’s a good thing: in addition to arranging, choreographing, rehearsing, and running the business of being the Midtown Men, they traveled to 46 dates in 2010 and are on track to do 70 or more this year.
“I’m in such a good group of guys,” Spencer said. ”We could be doing anything. We choose to sing together because we know this is the time to do it.”
I have to say that I love the Motown, but I really enjoy the top of the show, the opener that we have, because I think the thing that we really wanted to focus on was not only paying homage to the 60’s music, but paying homage to the very style of the groups of the sixties. Like taking the moves that they would do and making it our own, yet being as nostalgic as we could to keep that time warp kind of factor and edge in our show. And I just love those old groups … when Smokey Robinson would be singing the lead, and then the Miracles would be behind him doing their shinding behind him. And when we get the opportunity to do that throughout the piece, three guys behind a lead – there’ just something about that I just have so much fun with.