The Midtown Men Play Two Shows at the Hawaii Theatre This Weekend – Aloha!

• November 21, 2014 • Comments (0)

“If you can imagine the intensity and the passion in bringing to life one group’s story, and basically send it off on a trajectory of great success — as a matter of fact, of phenomenal success that continues — we’re doing the same thing for all of our favorite groups of the 1960s: the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Motown.”

Christian Hoff

 

Midtown Men share love of ’60s music

BY JOHN BERGER, Star Advertiser

Why would someone leave a Tony Award-winning featured role in a Tony Award-winning Broadway show? For Christian Hoff, who developed the role of Tommy DeVito in “Jersey Boys” and then received a Tony for his performance, the answer is simple. He found a new challenge that was even bigger: performing as one of the Midtown Men, who appear for two shows at the Hawaii Theatre this weekend.

Hoff opened as DeVito in 2005, playing the man he describes as “the wild card” in the Four Seasons. The Four Seasons — Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi — was one of the biggest American vocal groups of the 20th century. “Jersey Boys,” the jukebox musical treatment of their career, has played on Broadway for more than 3,500 performances and is still running.

The bigger challenge? Hoff and three other members of the original cast — Daniel Reichard (Gaudio), J. Robert Spencer (Massi) and Michael Longoria (who played Joe Pesci — yes, that Joe Pesci, later famed as the actor in “Home Alone,” who played a key role in bringing songwriter Gaudio and singer Valli together) — discovered they enjoyed singing together even when they weren’t working. They enjoyed it so much that after three years of job security with “Jersey Boys,” they took a flying leap of faith and left to become a vocal group specializing in the hits of the 1960s.

The quartet would eventually become known as the Midtown Men.

“None of us had really produced a show before like we’ve done with this and taken full responsibility for it. That was an opportunity that got our attention,” Hoff said recently, calling from “a hotel room with a view of the New York City skyline.”

“To be a part of something that we’ve created that has a life and longevity in and of its own is more entrepreneurial than anything we have experienced before.

“It’s a collective, it’s a group effort, and what I think is exciting about that is no matter how great we are as individuals, the whole is greater than its parts. It’s beautiful together.”

TO BE perfectly clear, this is not “Jersey Boys.” These are the Midtown Men — informed by the performers’ Broadway skills and love for ’60s music.

“We don’t do ‘Jersey Boys,’” Hoff said emphatically. “We haven’t been in ‘Jersey Boys’ since the end of 2008, so here we are, five years down the line, and we’re continuing to grow in our own right.”

He added, “Everything that we brought to life in ‘Jersey Boys’ on Broadway — the story, the music, the era of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons — we now do the same thing for the entire decade of the ’60s. If you can imagine the intensity and the passion in bringing to life one group’s story, and basically send it off on a trajectory of great success — as a matter of fact, of phenomenal success that continues — we’re doing the same thing for all of our favorite groups of the 1960s: the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Motown.”

The quartet’s first album includes songs by Marvin Gaye, the Mamas & the Papas, the Turtles and the Zombies. A second album, soon to be released, includes a Rascals hit, “Groovin’,” with Gene Cornish, one of the original Rascals, sitting in on harmonica.

Hoff adds that while Frankie Valli’s high falsetto was the lead vocal on all almost all the Four Seasons’ hits, all four of the Midtown Men sing lead; their vocal parts are not locked in.

Longoria, who opened the production playing Joe Pesci but inherited the role of Valli, sometimes sings in a lower register. DeVito was the group’s bass vocalist, but Hoff sometimes takes the falsetto part.

Hoff and his partners initially performed as “The Boys in Concert,” but the relation between that title and “Jersey Boys” provoked a brief flurry of legal action from the creators of “Jersey Boys.”

“They were concerned that we were going to go do a production of ‘Jersey Boys’ lite,” Hoff said. “We weren’t doing that. The only connection was our wanting to let people know that we were from the original cast of ‘Jersey Boys.’”

Hoff and his guys were awarded the fair-use tag line and changed their group’s name to the Midtown Men.

HOFF SAID the experience of portraying his complicated “Jersey Boys” character helps inform his current performance.

In the Broadway show, DeVito gets in over his head, running up gambling debt and facing possible unpleasantness from a loan shark until someone higher up the organized-crime food chain intervenes. By this time, Valli’s marriage is over, and DeVito tries to seduce Valli’s girlfriend.

When DeVito left the group in 1970, Valli and Gaudio bought his rights to the Four Seasons’ material and use of the name.

Hoff says he contacted DeVito before rehearsals for “Jersey Boys” began.

“This was not what the producers of ‘Jersey Boys’ wanted me to do,” Hoff said. “They didn’t set this up; I did it on my own.

“I wrote him a note, and he called me on my honeymoon in 2004 and we had a conversation. My friendship (with DeVito) began then and continued not only through the inception of ‘Jersey Boys,’ but to this day.”

The conversation helped Hoff refine his acting.

“The character and the way I did it became stronger and stronger, bigger and bigger, to where it informed Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio’s relationship in a way that was undeniable.

“What started out a little bit of a wild-card character in the story became a hinge, if you will, for the dramatic part of the story. It was not only a great role, but a great opportunity for an actor to bring a role to life, and that’s what the Tony Award was about.”

When the time came to create the Midtown Men, Hoff’s experience came into play.

“The three of us — Bobby, Daniel and myself — we came with the show to Broadway,” he said. “We sat around the table with the writers and our director before there was even a script, and we began to identify and create a show based on not only the history of the Four Seasons, but our personalities. That’s something that’s very unique that I think has carried over now in the success of the Midtown Men.

“We’ve now found our own sound, and that’s the cool thing about this.”

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

THE MIDTOWN MEN»

Where: Hawaii Theatre, 1130 Bethel St.»

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday»

Cost: $40-$100»

Info: (808) 528-0506, hawaiitheatre.com

Category: Christian Hoff, Concerts, Media

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