Tag: Steven Van Zandt
BWW Interviews: The Original Cast of JERSEY BOYS Reconnects with Audiences, Music as Midtown Men
by Paul Batterson, BroadwayWorld Columbus
Christian Hoff has a record amount of voices inside his head. He holds a Guinness World’s Record for “Most Character Voices in an Audio Book” doing 241 separate voices in Tell Me How You Love the Picture, based on the career of movie producer Ed Feldman.
Hoff will be using his ability to sound like someone else when the Midtown Men perform a variety of hits from the Sixties with the Columbus Symphony 8 p.m. Nov. 9 at Ohio Theatre (55 East State St.).
“This tour is kind of blowing our minds,” Hoff says. “We’ve got this combination of symphony shows and private dates, galas and performing arts centers. It’s great to see the roof get blown off and that has a lot to do with our fans and audiences responses to the show.”
“It’s a crusade bringing people together around live music and theater. We love doing what we do. We want to see if we can take it to the next level. We want to reach the symphony crowd, which is a little older and more sophisticated, as well as their grandkids. To have two or three generations of fans listening to us is amazing.”
The Midtown Men consists of Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer, the original cast of JERSEY BOYS. Hoff won “Best Featured Actor in a Musical” for his portrayal of Tommy DeVito in the musical JERSEY BOYS in 2006. Spencer was nominated for a Tony in 2009 for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Dan Goodman in NEXT TO NORMAL.
Hoff and his former cast mates will share lead singer duties as they run through a gamut of classics from Motown to the British Invasion. Hoff will offer his take on Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of A Clown,” The Zombie’s “Time of the Season” and the Turtles’ “Happy Together.”
Columbus is one of a handful of stops where the Midtown Men will be accompanied by an orchestra. Hoff enjoys adding a lush sound to these Sixties staples.
“It’s such an amazing experience. Metaphorically (going from the simple arrangements to playing with an orchestra) is like rowing down a lazy river to going into the rapids.,” Hoff says. “We’ve taken our (versions) of this music and multiplied it by a talented, gifted orchestra like the Columbus Symphony.”
Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, some of the artists whom the Midtown Men emulate have been blown away by the quartet. It’s not uncommon to see some of the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Famers, like the Rascals’ guitarist Gene Cornish, join the fun when the Midtown Men roll into town. Tommy James, who wrote “Crimson & Clover,” I Think We’re Alone Now”, and “Mony, Mony,” called the band “the real deal” and Paul Anka, who penned “Diana,” “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” and “You’re Having My Baby,” said they were “superb. Bravo!”
“It’s one thing to enjoy what you do,” Hoff says. “But when it connects with the audience and gets that kind of feedback (from the original performers) … that’s what it is all about.”
One of their most famous encounters was with New Jersey legend Bruce Springsteen, who first checked out the four when they were in JERSEY BOYS. The quartet was invited to perform with the Boss, Elvis Costello and Dion at the Right 2 Rock concert honoring Springsteen guitarist Steven Van Zandt on Oct. 16, 2012 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.
After Hurricane Sandy caused over $71 billion worth of damage to the New York and New Jersey 15 days later, Van Zandt helped the Midtown Men record a charity single, “All Alone for Christmas,” with all the profits going to the Red Cross. Van Zandt originally wrote the song for the movie “Home Alone 2″ but came up with a new arraignment for the Midtown Men. Van Zandt also played guitar and recruited members of the E Street Band to back up the quartet.
Hoff, a native of San Francisco, and his band mates saw the devastation and knew they had to do something.
“When something happens on your block, it is so much easier to be reminded of the impact,” Hoff says. “It’s like rooting for your local team. There’s an adrenaline that picks up inside your heart.
“New Jersey took me under its wing with the heart and soul of the people. It was a way for us to give back. Even though I don’t live there anymore, it’s still a big part of me. People say they left their heart in San Francisco. I left my mine in New Jersey.”
This fantastic review of “All Alone On Christmas” on the myfizzypop blog is so much fun – a MUST READ! Thank you Paul!
11 days til Christmas: The Midtown Men ~ All Alone on Christmas
Posted by Paul on December 14, 2012
There is so much joy and goodness wrapped in today’s festive song choice that I’m positively percolating at the seasonal charm of it all! There are 2 lots of background you need to be aware of – most importantly of course are The Midtown Men themselves. The four fellas who make up this sixties music loving group are original stars from the massive stage smash “Jersey Boys” – Christian, Michael, Daniel and J.Robert were busy earning accolades when the show first hit Broadway when they decided they loved what they were doing so much that they wanted it to continue. Lucky for us that meant keeping the whole gang together to continue their loving tribute to the sounds that shaped pop music today in the form of the Midtown Men. They have a sparkling album of music out already (see iTunes) delving into the catalogues of The Beach Boys, Mamas & Papas, The Turtles, the Four Seasons (of course) & many more. Their voices are utterly irresistable, the harmonies delicious and the delivery passionate, enthusiastic and vibrant. Plus! As their website proudly proclaims, they are all dressed rather nattily in suits from Hugo Boss so you know they are devastatingly debonair!
But what does this all have to do with Christmas I hear you ask (yes even you at the back. I have very good hearing, though crap eyesight!) Well, the blokes have only gone and recorded the amazing Stevie van Zandt penned All Alone On Christmas (which you may well remember featuring prominently – and sung by Darlene Love – in Home Alone 2 and Love, Actually). The original is a rousing, horn infused romp that pays tribute to both the Spector sound of the sixties as well as Darlene’s own Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). The joyous, uplifting instrumental takes the sting out of the lyrics which detail a couple no longer together & the sounds of the season making the split oh so much harder. Weep. The Midtown Men put their own definitive spin on the track with a jingle-bell soundtracked intro that puts out their emotive please that, of course, no one ought to be alone on Christmas. It then launches into a percussive, chime laden, horn saturated backing that acts as the perfect picture frame for their story telling – and oh boy, those voices bring the lyrics into vibrant, vivid focus. Their layered harmonies give the track a heavenly, sumptuous textured feel while individually they ably inject a real pathos, wistfulness yet sense of optimism into the proceedings. It’s these nuanced performances that are both powerful individually & together that make the track such a magnificent success. Their marriage of downbeat lyrics and upbeat instrumental ultimately inspire hope that wherever you are, whoever you are with, people will find a way to share the joy at Christmas. Gorgeous.
Jersey City, that is! And they’re making headlines:
The Jersey City Independent
By Summer Dawn Hortillosa • Dec 3rd, 2012
The Midtown Men, Four Original Jersey Boys, Performing at St. Peter’s & Raising Money for Sandy Relief
The Jersey Boys are coming back home!
Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer — from the original Broadway cast of Jersey Boys — are coming to St. Peter’s University in their own rocking singing group, The Midtown Men.
Spencer says that in a way, this performance is a homecoming for them. “I’m not originally from New York or New Jersey, but nonetheless, Jersey put me on the map,” he says.
The quartet will sing 1960′s hits by legends like The Beatles, The Beach Boys and of course, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Since it’s December, they’ll also be singing some holiday tunes including Christmas classics and brand new single “All Alone on Christmas,” written and produced by Little Steven Van Zandt. For those not in-the-know, Van Zandt is one of the founding members of another iconic Jersey group, Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
All proceeds from the digital sales of the single will go towards Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, says Spencer.
“When this whole thing happened, we thought, ‘What are we going to do? How can we help relief efforts?’” he says. “We thought a great thing to do this holiday season would be to have the song available on iTunes for 99 cents. From now until the end of the year, all proceeds from the downloads will go to the Red Cross. It’s been a group effort; we just really wanted to do something.” Proceeds from their CD sales at the St. Peter’s will also benefit recovery efforts.
In addition to helping raise money, Spencer says he and the boys also hope to give JC some top-notch entertainment to lift their spirits. “We want everyone to come and have a good time,” he says, adding that he feels blessed to be in the business of giving people a good time.”When I go to work, I know it’s going to be fun because everyone loves listening to this music and seeing us on stage — and they love it because we love it.”
He says that same fervor, drive and love of life is something he sees in New Jerseyans, especially in their reaction to the storm’s aftermath, and in Gov. Chris Christie.
“He is really a man of the people. I’ve always been impressed with his demeanor and the way that he is,” says Spencer. Is Christie a good embodiment of “New Jersey Strong”?
“I feel he’s very passionate and I think that is a great word for New Jersey — not strong, but passionate.”
The Midtown Men perform at St. Aedan’s, 800 Bergen Ave., as part of their 2012-13 tour on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 8 pm. Tickets start at $69, with VIP tickets including a pre-show reception, seating in the first three rows and free parking at $129. For more information, click here.
I can’t think of anything better to get us in the holiday spirit than listening to our favorite men singing a Christmas song! And for me, exploring the background of the song makes it doubly exciting.
What a thrill it must have been for Christian, Daniel, Michael and Bobby to work with legendary rock icon “Little Stevie” Van Zandt! For more years than I care to admit, I have been mesmerized by his performances on stage with Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. And who can deny his fabulous portrayal of Silvio on the Sopranos – epic! But as I am doing research on the background of “Stevie” and “All Alone On Christmas”, I am learning so much about the man that he is.
Having school-aged children, and having fought for years the tremendous cuts in public education – most especially in the arts, Steven’s work with Little Kids Rock is near and dear to my heart.
(“…music, and the Arts in general, [in public schools]are not a luxury!” Steven Van Zandt)
How thrilling that, as a direct result of working with Mr. Van Zandt, The Midtown Men had the privilege of joining the Little Kids Rock 10th Anniversary celebration, where Steven Van Zandt was honored with the Big Man of the Year Award.
The following video shows the pure joy of that event for all involved, including The Midtown Men.
Click here to view a terrific interview with Steven before the show.
Whether you download “All Alone On Christmas” (remember, all proceeds from downloads in 2012 will go to the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief) or purchase the CD (complete with a Midtown Men ornament)you are sure to be put into a Midtown Holiday frame of mind.
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
November 23, 2012
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.)
Rascals to Reunite for Three Shows
By JAMES C. MCKINLEY JR., The New York Times
Steven Van Zandt has been trying to persuade his musical heroes the Rascals – the influential white soul group known for hits like “Good Lovin’ ” and “Groovin’ ” — to reunite since the early 1980s. But the four original members, who started the band as the Young Rascals in New Jersey in 1965, agreed to perform together only once since – at a private benefit concert in 2010.
Now Mr. Van Zandt, the actor, producer and longtime guitarist with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, has persuaded the Rascals to do a set of shows that will not only be the first concerts the quartet has performed together since the early ’70s, but will also tell the group’s history through archival footage, narration and dramatic film segments.
“It’s a hybrid of a live concert and a Broadway show, through a mixed-media presentation of a theatrical event,” said Mr. Van Zandt, who is producing the shows. “The four original guys will be performing, as they would in a regular concert, with a couple other elements mixed in – their own narration of their story, the history of the Rascals, done on these big screens, and then segments of actors playing them at critical points in their career.”
The show will run for three nights, from Dec. 13 through 15, at the newly reopened Capitol Theater in Port Chester, N.Y. Mr. Van Zandt has started a fund-raising campaign on the Kickstarter Web site to help underwrite the production, although he intends to finance it himself even if no donations are raised.
Gene Cornish, the Rascals’ guitarist, said the foursome had resisted reuniting for decades, despite several lucrative offers. (Three members did a brief tour in 1988.) But Mr. Cornish said they changed their minds after jamming at the 2010 Kristen Ann Carr Fund performance in New York City to raise money to fight cancer. “It was a really an ‘aha moment,’ ” Mr. Cornish, who is 68, said. “We realized how much we missed playing together.”
Mr. Cornish said the band agreed at that point to play another group of concerts if Mr. Van Zandt, who arranged the benefit, could come up with a show concept that would be more meaningful that a simple reunion to make money. He said he and the other band members — the keyboardist and singer Felix Cavaliere, the vocalist Eddie Brigati and the drummer Dino Danelli – were bowled over by the script Mr. Van Zandt wrote for them. “I was just overwhelmed to read our legacy on printed paper,” Mr. Cornish said.
Gene Cornish, on The Midtown Men (not from the original article):
“Their show brings back memories of the great soundtrack of my youth.
Singing along with them made me feel like a teenager again.”
The Rascals, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, were one of the most popular blue-eyed soul groups of the mid-1960s, emerging from the post-Twist bar scene in New York and New Jersey.
After they topped the Billboard singles chrt with a cover of the R&B song “Good Lovin’ ” in 1966, they had a string of Top 20 hits in the late 1960s, among them “Groovin’ ” in 1967 and “A Beautiful Morning” in 1968. They also wrote the civil rights anthem “People Got to Be Free” after the 1968 assassinations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.
By the time the group broke up in the early 1970s, the Rascals had earned a reputation as a principled band on civil rights issues. The band always demanded that a black act appear on the bill with them at their concerts, a stance that cost them some dates in the South.
The show, titled “Once Upon a Dream,” will feature lighting and visual elements designed by Marc Brickman, a veteran who most recently did Roger Waters’s “Wall” tour. Tickets go on sale on Sept. 28.