WEEKEND BEST BETS ‘Midtown Men’ travels well
By Bonnie J. Toomey, Correspondent
Posted: 03/01/2012 06:29:41 AM EST
WORCESTER — “The Midtown Men” is at The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts tonight, reuniting the cast of Broadway’s “Jersey Boys” — Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer.
The retro quartet brings the music of the ’60s to the stage with signature style and electrifying elegance.
When he’s not performing, Daniel Reichard chills out by dining at the best New York City restaurants, walking his French bulldog and listening to his vinyl records collection. He shares some thoughts on his early years, advice for the aspiring and on his smash hit, “The Midtown Men.”
Reichard grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, the second youngest of nine children.
“My house was a whirling dervish, with people rushing in and out all morning, day, and night,” he says.
The heightened action in his house had him working a little harder for attention than most kids and, in a brood of many siblings, who he says are all very funny, he had already begun to hone his craft at a young age.
“I truly feel comfortable in front of large groups because it’s what I grew up with. I used to get up and sing ‘King Tut’ and do TV commercials at family reunions,” says Reichard, who when asked his age, says with a smile that he was born at “nighttime.”
He graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor of fine arts degree and made his debut in New York City in “Forbidden Broadway: 20th Anniversary Celebration,” which catapulted him to roles like Keith Haring in “Radiant Baby,” Man in “The Thing About Men,” and Emmet in Jim Henson’s “Emmet Ott(er)’s Jugband Christmas.” Along with his many classic concert appearances nationwide, he is well known for his portrayal of Frankie in the 2009 film “Forever Plaid.”
“Audiences can expect my colleagues and I to be up onstage singing our hearts out and sweating our suits out,” he says. “We give every show all of our energy and enthusiasm. We are ourselves onstage, so our audiences get to see our true relationship with each other.”
Reichard points out that “The Midtown Men” is a business he built along with colleagues and friends Hoff, Longoria and Spencer.
“We have an incredible team. Together we have taken this idea from a group that occasionally sings together to a full-time, cross-continental lifestyle,” says Reichard, who has enjoyed sold-out engagements in places like New York City’s Joe’s Pub, Metropolitan Room, and Ars Nova.
“We have been all over. Some of my favorite cities on the road have included Austin, San Diego, Key West, Biloxi and, of course, our hometown, New York City,” he says. “You can read more tour information on our website, www.themidtownmen.com.”
What’s more impressive is that Reichard, Hoff, Spencer and Longoria have directed and choreographed the show themselves.
“It’s a lot of fun to put these numbers together. Everyone always has a good idea right when we need one,” he says.
Together since April 2010, the cast of “The Midtown Men,” has stuck to successful strategies for preparing for each performance, which include getting enough sleep, doing vocal exercises and drinking “tons of water,” Reichard says.
From the time he was a boy, he always wanted to be a performer.
“I said to my dad when I was a kid, ‘I don’t want to be a performer for the money and fortune. I want the fame.’ My dad always thought that was funny. I wanted to be a comic actor and many times over the past 12 years in New York City I’ve been able to be,” he says. “Otherwise, with ‘The Midtown Men,’ we all live to make our audiences laugh. I can’t complain.”
According to him, the cast just loves performing the Motown sequence in the show, which brings the house down.
“It always kills! I love singing my old ‘Jersey Boys’ tune ‘Cry for Me.” It doesn’t get old,” he says.
Reichard believes the takeaway for the audience comes as the group shares the best of the best from the 1960s songbook. The four young men put their blend on all of the great groups of the era as they tell their stories from their adventures together, revealing backstage dish and personal highlights.
Reichard shares some sage advice for aspiring performers.
“Get to know all of the decades of the American theater,” he says. “Learn the classics. Learn about contemporary writers. Arm yourself with knowledge and passion for the arts. Enjoy your life and develop your entire being and the work can follow.”
Commerce Bank sponsors “The Midtown Men,” tonight, 7:30; tickets $29 to $49, Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, 554 Main St., Worcester; go to www.thehanovertheatre.org or call 877-571-7469.
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.”
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.
‘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.”
Q: Out of the whole set of songs that you do for The Midtown Men, what are your favorites to perform?…..
A: Michael - I love it when we tell the audience that we’re going to do our version of Motown, and then we bust out with the moves of the Jackson 5. I just like that when we sing it, I feel like we’re kind of bringing Michael Jackson and all that sound back. And even though we don’t sound exactly like them, and we’re doing it our own way, it‘s beautiful because when Michael Jackson was a child, the entire nation identified with this kid and fell in love with this kid. And I grew up seeing his journey, so to kind of bring it back to that pure and innocent time in his life is so special for me, for us to do. As a group, I love that song.
And you know, I don’t’ know why I love this song so much, but I just love “Bye, Bye Baby”. But then you listen to the lyrics and it’s so shady and sad….he’s talking about this girl he can’t be with because he has somebody already … but I love singing it. It’s something about where it fits in all of our voices, and where it is in the show, it’s just a really cool song.
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.”
A: Christian – My favorite group song to perform is ‘Dawn’. It is such a great storytelling hit, as many of the Four Seasons tunes are, because it has so much heart and conflict in it. The great thing about the 60’s music that we identify with as a group, is that this music is about something: relationships and social and class topics that you don’t really get to sing about as a guy, so that is very cool.
But now, as we’re touring and influenced by other regions and perspectives, I have to admit that the Motown Medley is my new favorite. I love the diversity of our show. These 1960’s songs cover the gamut of musical expression. This is defining The Midtown Men and is becoming a lifestyle for us and for our audiences.
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.