From Broadway to Band: The Midtown Men Come to NJPAC
Musicians dream of being on stage and staring out at the crowd filling a sold out venue, while actors dream of starring in a hit play on Broadway. The four guys who comprise The Midtown Men have seen both dreams come true, and on Wednesday, May 28, they plan on thanking New Jersey for playing a large role in their success.
The Midtown Men is a vocal group comprised of Tony Award-winner Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard, and Tony Award-nominee J. Robert Spencer. All four were in the original cast of “Jersey Boys,” the legendary play that tells the story of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, which won four Tony Awards in 2006 including Best Musical. While none of the four are from the Garden State, more than 1,000 performances as members of the Four Seasons definitely puts them in the honorary member category.
During their time together on Broadway, the four often challenged themselves while warming up for a show by singing songs of other artists. They soon found themselves getting requests to do shows of their own and knew they had something very special going on. In doing so, they became the first band to come from Broadway to succeed on their own as a new entity.
“We just realized that our voices blended on all of the different groups of the sixties,” explained Longoria. “So, we started building our repertoire from a fun base, and before we knew it, we had concerts of other material. Being able to sing the Temptations, the Jackson Five, Smokey Robinson and all these other amazing legends of the sixties has been an incredible journey for us.”
Part of that journey has been in discovering the vast amounts of great music from that era. Each of the four has their own personal favorites from the sixties, which regularly change. On May 28, they plan on giving the NJPAC audience a taste of their favorites — some which were included on the band’s debut CD, “The Midtown Men: Sixties Hits”, released in 2011. That record included classics like “Time of the Season,” “Happy Together,” “Working My Way Back to You,” “Up On the Roof,” and “Big Girls Don't Cry”.
“This music is really a slice of a multi-generational culture,” said Hoff. “When we take it out on the road — no matter where we go, it could be in the middle of Arkansas or with the Denver Symphony — by the time we’re done, the music and our sound that we put on the music, has spoken for itself. People are on their feet identifying not only with the music but with our story that we tell through the music and through demonstrating our relationship with one another.
“We’re not playing other people, our own stories are shining now,” continued Hoff. “Our own personalities and interactions and singing together sort of happened immediately. The chemistry that brought the phenomenon of ‘Jersey Boys’ to life with — and which they built the show around — that same chemistry just exists naturally, it’s not manufactured like so many other groups and companies that followed with the play.”
“There’s no story quite like ours out there in the music world,” adds Reichard.
“We’re Broadway’s original boy band!” Longoria exclaims. “I think that’s what was cool about the ‘60s — they had so many boy bands / man bands, quartets with men singing and using their voices to express themselves. The songs were real and simplistic and cut straight to the heart. The lyrics of these songs really tell a story, which is something we can relate to as actors. It was just a great era for male singers with songs written for men and men who sang in harmony.”
The band plans to make the NJPAC show a special event by including even more of their greatest hits than usual, along with some recent additions to the show.
“We’re bringing all of our big songs on to the stage,” said Reichard. “There are fans that come to see us and want to hear say “Up On The Roof” but they get “Groovin’” instead. At the NJPAC show, they’re going to hear both. We’re basically playing all of the Midtown Men favorites. It’s going to be a big celebration of all of our groups and songs that we perform. It’s a special night… a special program that we’ve got planned.”
On the band’s Facebook page, they wrote, “Our success both on Broadway and on the road is due hugely to the spirited support of the people of New Jersey, and we are truly honored to play this incredible hall once again.”
“There’s always something special about playing in front of Jersey because they put us where we are,” said Spencer, clearly echoing a belief shared by his bandmates. “In a lot of ways, we brought this amazing story to Broadway, but they came in full force and took us where we are. We owe a lot to Jersey and whenever we can get back there and rock out with all of our friends and fans and supporters of this show that we helped create and collaborate and get going from the very beginning, it’s incredibly rewarding and fulfilling to our spirits and our hearts.”
And there was just one last question we needed answered:
Jersey Arts: Who are your favorite artists of the sixties and favorite songs to perform?
Longoria: That’s a hard question because I always go back and forth from the guys and the girls, but I’m working on a song for our show right now (“Be My Baby”) and it’s become my new favorite. The amazing Ronnie Spector voice is just so iconic for the ‘60s. You hear it and you’re automatically transported to that time. It just makes me so happy to be bringing this music back to life.
Hoff: One of my favorites right now is Smokey Robinson and my favorite Smokey song that we do is “Tears of a Clown.”
Reichard: My favorites evolve constantly; they’re always changing but one song that we’re working on that I’m enjoying a lot is “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys. Our folks in New Jersey will be one of our first audiences to see us put our sound on that… Those Brian Wilson harmonies are just incredible. We’re really enjoying hearing our voices sing those harmonies. It’s really cool.
Spencer: I really, really connect with Marvin Gaye and I love that the guys and I sing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. It’s one of my favorite treats of the entire show. I love the way the band arrangements are behind us using horns and the way we each get individual lines to sing and then come together as four-part harmony. It’s a lot of fun and the audiences love that song, so when they see us love it they just love it even more.
NOTE: This performance was rescheduled from Friday, April 25 to Wednesday, May 28 at 8 p.m. All tickets for the April 25 performance will be honored at the May 28 performance.