Broadway bond spawns vocal group

Photo provided by Jam Theatricals -- The Midtown Men
Photo provided by Jam Theatricals -- The Midtown Men

The Jersey Boys became the Midtown Men.

Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer, original cast members in the Tony-winning Broadway hit, Jersey Boys, performed more than a thousand shows in the musical based upon the 1960s pop vocal group, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

Jersey Boys features 30 songs from the Valli-Four Seasons discography, including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

Following their three-and-a half-year run as the Jersey Boys, Hoff, Longoria and Reichard formed the Midtown Men. Spencer moved on to another Broadway hit, Next To Normal, a Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner.

Once Next To Normal had run its course for Spencer, he got a call from his fellow former Jersey Boys.

“They’d been on the road with this group, the Midtown Men,” Spencer recalled. “They said, ‘We need the fourth original guy. We need you.’

“The timing was right,” Spencer said. “I had done Next To Normal for two years. I thought, ‘There’s not much more I can get out of this show. Midtown Men is something I can do with my best friends, singing songs of the ’60s, songs I love.’ Before I knew it, we were on stage together.”

While Jersey Boys is based on the music of the Four Seasons, the Midtown Men perform the songs of several ’60s vocal groups, including the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

“The Midtown Men do the Four Seasons, but we do all these other great songs, too, like the Mamas and the Papas and the Turtles,” Spencer said. “We listen to those classic albums over and over again. You really do start living them. You start understanding the meaning of the songs more, and what was going on in the world when the songs were written.”

Spencer, having portrayed Four Seasons bass singer Nick Massi in Jersey Boys, can exploit his broader vocal range as a Midtown Man.

“Nick sang the iconic riffs from those hits,” Spencer said. “In ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry,’ he sang, ‘Silly boy, silly girl.’ So no one who saw Jersey Boys knew how much I can sing because they only heard the Four Seasons songs.”

The Midtown Men released their album debut, Sixties Hits, in 2011. The original Jersey Boys cast album, released in 2005, sold more than a million copies.

“That’s pretty crazy, for a Broadway actor to have gold and platinum records on his wall,” Spencer said.

The Jersey Boys cast also appeared on t he Today s how, Late Show with David Letterman and Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve.

“When we were doing the show back in 2005, that year it was a monster hit, every time we’d get on another show, especially David Letterman, we realized again that this was not the norm. When you land a show like Jersey Boys, that really was a changing moment in my career.”

The Midtown Men began their 77-city 2012-13 tour in August in Asbury Park, N.J. The group also is excited about its Christmas single, “All Alone On Christmas.” Steven Van Zandt, a member of Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band, produced this new version of the song, which he originally wrote for the Home Alone 2 soundtrack.

Van Zandt’s wife, Maureen, who’d seen the opening night of Jersey Boys and later attended Midtown Men concerts, encouraged her husband to work with the Midtown Men.

“We’re proud of the song and we’re proud of our relationship with Stevie,” Spencer said. “And my wife, she’s the biggest critic in the world, she’s been like, ‘Bobby, I cannot stop listening to this Christmas song!’ And our kids have it memorized. In my opinion, it could rank up there as one of those Christmas songs that people listen to every year.”