Let’s Hang On

The Midtown Men live at Clark State

Photo: The Midtown Men bring the ’60s to Springfield Kuss Auditorium November 29

By Tim Smith

For persons of a certain age who listened to Top Forty radio in the 1960s and beyond, some songs produce a smile and a nod of recognition. The music created by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons was a big part of that era, and was immortalized in the Broadway smash Jersey Boys. The Midtown Men will keep that music alive when they perform at Springfield’s Kuss Auditorium on Nov. 29.

The Midtown Men features the stars that played the Four Seasons in the original production, making them the first vocal group ever formed by the principal cast of a high-profile Broadway show. After sharing the stage for over a thousand performances, Tony® Award winner Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard, and Tony® Award nominee J. Robert Spencer decided to take their signature sound and chemistry to audiences everywhere, bringing to life their favorite 1960s hits.

Daniel Reichard originated the role of Four Seasons co-founder Bob Gaudio on Broadway. He points out that the group’s decision to continue the act after the final curtain was an example of good timing.

“Basically, all four of us are members of the original Broadway cast of Jersey Boys,” Reichard says. “When we were in the last three months of the show, we started getting asked to sing outside of the show at celebrity birthday parties or fundraisers, so we did a show and kind of winged it. After Jersey Boys folded, we kept getting together to sing and we accidentally found that we’d created an old-fashioned show biz act, sort of inspired by the Rat Pack, just going out on stage, making fun of ourselves, and having a good time. It’s like an old show business story. We’re bringing a flavor of that old-fashioned showmanship to our act.”

“Our music really does resonate with people who lived through it the first time because it’s the soundtrack of their lives.” – Daniel Reichard

Deciding what to call themselves proved to be the biggest problem, since they couldn’t use Jersey Boys or the Four Seasons.

“We went back and forth on so many names,” Reicherd says. “We wanted something that kind of reflected being Jersey boys. We started out being Jersey Boys on the stage, but it was in midtown Manhattan where we did it. They say that midtown really does reflect who we are. We’re not uptown boys, and we’re not downtown boys. Midtown reflects what we really are.”

The group quickly found an audience for their high-energy, freewheeling act, and their music has gained wide acceptance.

“Somebody asked me recently, ‘have you ever gone to a town and it just didn’t work out?’” he recalls. “We’ve never bombed out. We do all of the really great music of the 1960s. We make it a point to sing songs that really bring the audience together, like Happy Together by The Turtles or Can’t Buy Me Love by the Beatles. We do things by The Youngbloods and The Beatles and The Beach Boys, as well as The Four Seasons.”

The Midtown Men have been performing together for nearly eight years, and Reichard recalls the exact moment when they knew they had a hit on their hands.

“It was the morning we performed on Good Morning, America,” he says. “When we were in Jersey Boys, we performed on David Letterman and a few other shows. After the show folded, when we formed Midtown Men, all of a sudden, we were on GMA and people got to hear us for who we were. That was when we knew we had arrived.”

“Since then, we’ve played everything from the Kennedy Center in Washington to the most amazing venues in the country,” Reichard continues. “We’ve played casinos, music festivals, and fundraisers. I think it’s really the variety of those venues that keeps it interesting. One night you can be in a casino, then a performing arts center, then with a symphony. It’s really cool.”

The group crisscrosses the country on its tours and found that its audience covers every spectrum.

“We get everything from college kids in the audience up to boomers and people who love Broadway shows,” Reichard says. “We get the people that are older than the baby boomers, and younger. Our music really does resonate with people who lived through it the first time because it’s the soundtrack of their lives. Of course, when we play in New Jersey, everyone goes bananas. Even though we’re not from Jersey, we’re kind of hometown boys. But I think the reaction of every crowd is about the same. The music really brings out a unifying reaction.”

The audience for a Midtown Men concert has obvious favorites that they expect to hear, but the ensemble strives to keep things interesting.

“We add songs periodically, every few months, to keep it fresh,” Reichard says. “We change the set around as often as we can, but it’s a show that we really want everybody to get the best of. Some of these songs we’ve performed thousands of times together. We just give it all we have every single time.”

What’s next for the Midtown Men?

“We don’t really have any major plans,” Reichard says. “We’re still just doing our thing, playing towns for the first time, and that’s fun. From our first outing, we’ve felt like we’ve had to prove ourselves as something other than the Jersey Boys. We really put our hearts and souls into reviving these songs.”

The Springfield Arts Council will present the Midtown Men on Nov. 29 at 8 pm in Kuss Auditorium, 300 S. Fountain Ave, Springfield. Holiday refreshments will be served in the lobby beginning at 7 pm. Tickets range from $37 to $57 and can be obtained at SpringfieldArtsCouncil.org. For more information, call 937.328.3874.

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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com

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