Christian Hoff at my rooftop
Photo credit: Michael Hull of VictoriaGlobal.co
In late June 2015, I had a chance to interview Christian Hoff, a Tony Award winner and one of the four members of the Midtown Men band. Hoff, along with his three multi-talented band members, were previously part of the the original Jersey Boys. Today, the Midtown Men band can fill a 750 to 1,000 seater venue with fans of old school music, from all age groups. In their fifth season now, Hoff, Daniel Reichard, Michael Longoria and Tony Award nominee J. Robert Spencer revitalize their audiences with live musical performances from the 60s. Apart from performing in select cities, The Midtown Men occasionally offer a symphonic interpretation of shows that they host with re-known ensembles such as Philly POPs.
From left to right: Pat Palumbo, Hoff's manager, Christian Hoff and Judy Sahagian
Photo credit: Will Fang of VictoriaGlobal.co
The quartet ran the Jersey Boys band back in 2005, a band which, nowadays, runs globally with different crew members. When they were still touring the country as the Jersey Boys, band member Michael Longoria took up double roles as Frankie Valli and Joe Pesci. And now the Midtown Men continue to bring the 60s music to life the same way they did when they were part of the Jersey Boys, the major difference is that they are not playing characters. The four Midtown Men portray themselves, bringing the 60s music through their perspectives with a mix of chemistry and personal flair. It has been 5 years now since The Midtown Men have come into existence, and since then, they have experienced an organic growth like no other. Today, the band does 80-100 shows a year in different cities as they travel across the country. In 2006, The Midtown Men received a Tony Award for best show, while Christian Hoff received a Tony Award for best supporting actor.
The Midtown Men at Kennedy Center in a performance with
National Symphony Orchestra
Photo credit: wpengine.netdna-cdn.com
The band I saw perform in New York City's Beacon Theater this past June was a band that was having the time of their lives on stage while singing 60s music renditions. They are popular for their "jump to your feet" performances that feature top hits by The Beatles, The Temptations, The Jackson 5, The Beach Boys, and The Four Seasons. The latter is especially close to the hearts of The Midtown Men because during their days as the original Jersey Boys, they brought the story of The Four Seasons to life each single night.
During the Beacon Theater show, the incomparable Petula Clark and, former member of the girl group Crystals, Lala Brooks joined The Midtown Men on stage for cameo guest performances. Other monumental stars who accompanied them were Shirley Alston Reeves of The Shirelles and Gene Corniche, lead guitarist and founding member of the rock band The Rascals. This added excitement to what was already an amazing show, making it a night to remember. And to add to the excitement, an interactive video wall was placed on stage behind the artists showing images of the original singers. This interactive media concept was brilliant as it helped us, people of a younger generation, understand and appreciate the singing legends and their songs even more.
From left to right: Daniel Reichard, Christian Hoff, Petula Clark, Michael Longoria
and J. Robert Spencer at the Beacon Theater show
Photo credit: broadwayworld.com
What makes this band unique?
One might wonder what makes The Midtown Men different from the average 1960s music band. According to Hoff, what gets people to fill seats in concert halls is the fact that The Midtown Men do songs from the 60s with a fresh touch of classical music. The band brings life to old school classics that is not simply a tribute or nostalgia. They understand these classics and their roots in ways that not even cover bands of the time do. Hoff says members of the band are also actors who love dramaturgy, this enhances the beauty of their live theater, live music, and live performances. These are the factors that, when combined, get people on their feet, moving and grooving.
Christian and me
Photo credit: Mike Hull of VictoriaGlobal.co
But how did the quartet get such a strong grasp of that music from long ago? Hoff explained he and the other three members of the band spent some two weeks in Broadway learning about the music of the time. They studied the music business, the socioeconomics and politics during the 60s, the instrumentation, the dance styles and other aspects concerning the decade. When they founded the Jersey Boys, they needed to be aware of the politics and the way the music business was at the time. In addition, they also studied their competition, the Four Seasons who were signed on by Motown Records in 1971, and were instrumental in shaping the sounds of the 60s. This is why it would be an amazing experience if Berry Gordy, Jr., founder of Motown Records, would record the Midtown Men one day.