The Midtown Men, from left: Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer.
The elegant Valentine Theatre is the perfect setting for the sophisticated cool of The Midtown Men, who appear Saturday for the theater’s 16th annual fundraising gala.
The four performers met when they starred as the original cast of the Tony Award and Grammy-winning Broadway musical Jersey Boys, from 2004 until well into 2008.
Five years ago they got together as the Midtown Men and have been touring the country, celebrating the music of the Sixties in more than 400 concerts. The quartet has that Rat Pack style, with skinny ties and well-tailored Hugo Boss or Ted Baker suits.
They came to fame as Jersey Boys, but now audiences come out to see them solely as The Midtown Men, J. Robert Spencer said in a recent phone interview. “We’re fortunate enough to say this keeps us extremely happy and busy.”
Among the songs the Midtown Men might perform for the Valentine Gala are The Young Rascals’ “Groovin’,” Smokey Robinson’s “The Tears of a Clown, Ronnie Spector’s ”Be My Baby,“ The Temptations’ ”Get Ready,“ The Four Seasons’ ”Big Girls Don’t Cry,“ ”Sherry,“ ”Oh What a Night, and “Bye Bye Baby,” The Beatles’ Can’t Buy Me Love,“ The Turtles’ ”Happy Together,“ and Marvin Gaye’s ”Ain’t That Peculiar” and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,“ Spencer said.
Their shows also include introductions of each other so the audience gets to know them, and tales of their performing experiences.
In addition to Spencer, the Midtown Men include Daniel Reichard, Michael Longoria, and Christian Hoff.
Spencer originated the role of Nick Massi in Jersey Boys in 2004, and in 2008 he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance for a Leading Actor in a Musical in the Broadway production of Next To Normal. He’s also an independent film director, producer, and writer.
Reichard, a Cleveland native and University of Michigan graduate, portrayed Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys, and also is known for a well-received performance as Candide in Leonard Bernstein’s Candide at the New York City Opera.
Longoria first appeared as Joey before taking over the role as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys, and made his Broadway debut in the hit musical Hairspray.
Christian Hoff won a Tony Award for his performance as Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys in addition to nominations for Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle awards.
Among Spencer’s favorite musical experiences is being flown out to San Francisco for a private birthday party that had a stellar entertainment lineup: the Midtown Men, Jason Mraz, and Bruno Mars. “Never in a million years did we think we would run into, or open for, Jason Mraz or Bruno Mars, but there we are, sitting and talking like musicians talk,” Spencer said. “Everybody’s got a story. No matter what you’re making or where you are on the Billboard charts, music gives a seamless connection to all artists.”
Spencer counts Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin as influences. “They are iconic entertainers, and actors and entertainers love performing,” he said. “There’s something about that time that people connect with instantly, a time of carefree fun that [the performers] exuded, that ’If we’re going to entertain lets have a party, let everyone in the room have a party,’ and that’s what we try to do, from what we’ve learned from icons like that over the years.”
Sixties music has survived and thrived because it’s solid, Spencer said. “There was an explosion of amazing talent and songwriters at that time, and everyone was trying to up the next person, and it evolved into the greatest music of our lifetime.”
It was a tumultuous time in our country’s history, and music took people away from the bad news..
Spencer is excited about their new PBS live concert CD and DVD that will be released this holiday season. Previous recordings include an album, Sixties Hits, and their first radio single, “All Alone On Christmas,” written and produced by Steven Van Zandt and backed by Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
Spencer is a drummer, too, and his personal listening includes the Foo Fighters, hard rock, and the classics, Sinatra and Dean Martin.
When he’s at home with his children, a son who is almost 8 and a daughter who is almost 6, the music around the house includes “the new stuff and the old stuff,” Spencer said. “We went through a time when all we listened to was ’Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,’ I’d be on the drums and I would play it and sing it, and the kids would sing it.”
The kids love Coldplay and the song “Viva la Vida,” he added, and they love Adele and they love the Beatles. And, not surprising, they love the Midtown Men too.
The Valentine Gala begins at 6 p.m. Saturday with cocktails and station dining in a tent on the Plaza and in the Grand Lobby, followed by the Midtown Men at 8 p.m. in the theater and dessert and dancing in the Grand Lobby. So far about 800 people are expected to attend, said Matt Lentz, the Valentine’s director of marketing and public relations. Tickets are $75 and $100.and include dinner.
This year’s goal was $110,000 and $120,000 already has been raised through donations from sponsors over the last six months.
Contact Sue Brickey at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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