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

One comment on “The Midtown Men “Magic” Comes To Scranton

  1. For a special night of top-notch entertainment, I highly recommend getting your tickets soon. Oh What A Night !!!

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