Ah, what a night! It was 1963 again, or there abouts. It was a carefree concert to recall a certain period in the ‘60’s full of happy days. A time of AM radio hits, high school and perhaps college days; all on the cusp of things before a fall into more turbulent times in America.
What was it? It was The Midtown Men bringing a live show of the time when Dick Clark’s American Bandstand seemed to rule. It was a live version of the favorite of mine T.A.M.I. show. It gave off hints of what the British invasion would do; while folk music sounds and electric Dylan were nowhere to be heard.
Now you ask who The Midtown Men group is. Is it a group from the ‘60’s you don’t seem to remember? Well you might better recognize them collectively as the four stars from the cast of the Broadway hit, juke box musical Jersey Boys.
The Midtown Men are composed of Tony Award winner Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard, and Tony Award nominee J. Robert Spencer. They first came together as a group during their stint with Jersey Boys. As we learned from stories and patter from each of The Midtown Men, they became close, deciding to perform together after their stint with Jersey Boys ended. They each loved 1960’s music well beyond the Four Seasons songs they had been singing six days a week in Jersey Boys. They developed their new act and “took it on the road.” Audiences are the better for it.
Oh, and another thing. From the backstories we heard about each of The Midtown Men members, each has had a noteworthy dramatic and musical career totally separate from before after their time together on Broadway in Jersey Boys.
For most of the 1100 in the Hylton’s Merchant Hall, who seemed Baby Boomers like me, it was a performance bringing back thoughts of a sweeter, unspoiled time. It was an evening of one 1960’s AM radio hit after another. Each was very pleasingly delivered by The Midtown Men who totally sang and danced their way in the collective hearts of those in the house last night.
The concert was wall-to-wall of appealing, tight musical harmonies; an energetic seven-piece, bursting-forth with horn-dominated arrangements all filled with charming personal chemistry of the performers. With their energetic choreography, smooth vocal stylings The Midtown Men, celebrated a brimful of music with the audience. The audience was frequently invited to actively participate by clapping or rocking to the music of recognizable chart topping ‘60s tunes from groups with track records; not just a one-hit wonder.
Without giving away the entire playlist The Midtown Men covered nearly three dozen numbers.They ranged from some of the best known falsetto-signature songs (with lead performed by Longoria) of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons (Big Girls Don’t Cry, Sherry, Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You, Oh What a Night, and Bye Bye Baby). Then it was onto The Beatles (Can’t Buy Me Love, In My Life); the West Coast sounds of groups such as the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas; Motown performers such as The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, and The Miracles, The Jackson 5, and Marvin Gaye, and Tammi Terrell.
East Coast music groups were also well-represented including The Turtles, The Lovin’ Spoonful. The Rascals, and The Ronettes, as well as the Association. Add in the unmistakable sound of The Animals and Time of the Season to boot. There was one nod to the beginnings of the changing times of the ‘60’s with Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth. Phew. Now that is quite a list.
The Midtown Men spot-on choreography was well matched to the material. They moved to the rhythm and beat of a particular song and the group that sang it, at least as I remember those days. They were dressed in the clean-cut look that was the norm of the times; until the later ‘60’s changed all that.
For added audience pleasures, there was projections adding more visual flavor to the evening. In Act I the projections took on the quick pacing and editing of the Beatles black-and-white movie, A Hard Day’s Night. For Act II the projections gave the audience more insight into many of the Motown groups that The Midtown Men were covering.
As a further delight, there was a cute, catchy musical interlude and return from intermission. The band played renditions of TV theme songs from shows of the era running from Hawaii 5 0 to The Man from U.N.C.L.E, The Pink Panther, The Twilight Zone, Batman, and others.
The evening was a love affair between the four singers, the seven-piece tight smokin’ house band and the audience. The performance left the Baby Boomer dominated audience breathless, happy, and delightfully clapping in rhythm to the music or joyously waving their arms high in the air. The audience left the concert with enormous smiles.
The Midtown Men concert worked. When it comes to nostalgia and memory-inducing madeleine cookies, even a “hard-to-get” reviewer like me was delightfully taken in. This was no oldies-but-goodies event, or one of those PBS fund raising specials. There was a smooth ease about the evening. It was a concert with legendary music delivered by highly skilled, authentic entertainers. As I looked at my wife sitting next to me, I was smitten again as she clapped and beamed with a wide smile that brought her cheek-bones to show, her bright hazel bright like a laser of happiness.
As I left the performance, I heard many voices happily chattering with a bounce in each voice. What more can someone wish for others to have?
Running Time: Two hours and 10 minutes, with one 20-minute intermission.
The Midtown Men played for one night only on Saturday, September 20, 2014 at Hylton Performing Arts Center – 10960 George Mason Circle, in Manassas, VA. For future events at The Hylton Performance Arts Center, go to their performance calendar.