Oh what a night— it will be in Frederick later this month as four former Jersey Boys bring a fantastic show to The Weinberg Center for the Arts! All grown up, these Broadway boys are now presenting The Midtown Men. Starring four of the originating performers from the Tony Award-Winning Jersey Boys, The Midtown Men is bound to dazzle anyone that loves music from that era. In a TheatreBloom exclusive interview series, we take four quick phone conversations with these fantastic fellas to hear what they have to say about the touring experience and life beyond portraying Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.
Thanks so much for the phone call! If you just want to give us a quick introduction, we’ll get underway with your Midtown Men experience.
Michael Longoria: Hi, this is Michael Longoria from The Midtown Men. I sing with fellow Midtown Men Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, and J. Robert Spencer. Now the four of us met in a show called Jersey Boys when we did it on Broadway and we were playing The Four Seasons together.
And which one of The Four Seasons were you when you took your turn on Broadway?
Michael: Well when I was singing with these guys, I got to play the role of Frankie Valli so I got all the high falsetto parts.
What is it that draws you to that era of music?
Michael: I think what’s amazing about the music of the 60’s is that it connects with so many generations. The lyrics are so beautiful in nature that most people can connect to them. I think it’s because they were written by teenagers of that era. You know, teenagers then didn’t have all of these distractions but they did have a pencil and paper. And they did have record contracts. The fact that we get to recreate these songs from the youth of the 60’s just shows that it really does live on. The energy of the young people that wrote those words and those melodies are all in those songs and we really feel them every time we recreate them on stage.
Do you have a favorite Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons that really speaks to you?
Michael: Oh, yes! There are so many. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” is the classic Frankie Valli song that I got to sing night after night in Jersey Boys. I got to record it on my debut solo album as well, Broadway Brick by Brick. I got to continue my Frankie Valli influence on my future projects after Jersey Boys, we sing it with The Midtown Men. Getting to continue to do that is just a gift that keeps on giving.
Broadway Brick by Brick. Can you tell us a little bit about this album?
Michael: It’s my all-Broadway album released on Broadway records. It’s basically the telling of my journey of how I got to New York City as a child mariachi singer, all the way to how I got to Jersey Boys as told through the songs of Broadway.
Is there a meaningful song from that album that is particularly meaningful to you?
Michael: There’s two. Musical theatre-wise, “Never Say Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard, that’s my favorite song on the album. But one of the climaxes of the album is when I sing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” It’s the first time that anybody has ever heard me recorded singing that song. It’s a pretty big deal to be able to finally have my version of Frankie’s song recorded.
How does The Midtown Men experience differ from Jersey Boys?
Michael: Jersey Boys is a story. It’s about a boy band of the 60’s that really, truly existed. In that show we were playing characters, I was playing the lead singer of The Four Seasons, Frankie Valli. But in The Midtown Men we are literally playing ourselves. We are ourselves. We are not playing characters, the people that you see on stage are the people behind the characters that made that show successful. The music that we do is not only The Four Seasons but all of their competition too. We do The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Mamas and The Papas, The Temptations; we really hit all of the classic groups of the 60’s. It’s all united by the magic that we found in Jersey Boys. We found those harmonies and where each of our voices fits within a chord when we’re all singing together; it’s a very specific kind of blend. It’s a specific magic that we were blessed to find over at the August Wilson Theatre on 52nd Street.
What is it like to just play you in this show?
Michael: It’s the most liberating thing ever. You’re not putting on a mask, you’re just saying “Here I am, take me or leave me.” And luckily they take us! When you’re seeing a singer perform just as themselves you’re really seeing their truest essence. When I’m up there singing a song on stage you’re seeing into my heart and soul. That’s the most intimate portrayal of my being that you’ll ever see because that’s what I am. I am a singer. It’s the same way when you read a writer’s writing, that’s the most intimate look into that person’s life. When you see me in The Midtown Men, you really get a sense for who I am, and not just me, but for all the guys. You get a sense of the friendship that is so special that continues to make this music happen. Audiences all around the country are joining us. Whenever we’re in their town, they all come and they all leave with that sense of brotherhood and that sense of positive forward movement.
You just mentioned you’re a singer, and I do believe I read somewhere that you’re a songwriter. What is it that inspires you when you’re writing a song and singing it? Where do you draw your inspirations from?
Michael: You know, when I’m writing a song it always comes from a personal place. You have a well of experiences in your daily life that happen to you, you just jot it down and start writing about it. Not only that but if you’ve ever loved or had to leave a love or had to make a hard decision, you can just draw from those experiences. You’d be surprised at how many songs come from one specific moment in your life.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge with The Midtown Men?
Michael: I think the challenge is facing these audiences who a lot of times know of our work but haven’t seen us. Each town that we go to we have to prove ourselves. The most difficult thing is making sure that we connect with the audience right from the start so that by the end of the night they’re up on their feet and they’re with us. Luckily that music makes it really easy to do that. People really love that music. We have so much fun doing it that you can’t help but have fun with us!
What would you say being a part of The Midtown Men has taught you about yourself?
Michael: It’s just made me fearless. I take for granted that people can be shy. That’s just something that I cannot be now that I’ve been on stages all across America. You literally have to entertain complete strangers. Luckily, with The Midtown Men we’re in our seventh year of touring. So a lot the towns that we go to they aren’t strangers anymore. They’re people that have seen us once or twice. That is what is the most challenging, facing a new area and embracing it. But it’s also the gift of touring. Getting these opportunities to sing for different communities that we would never have thought of visiting. All of the sudden we discover these gems all across America filled with not only people that love music but people who love what we’re doing.
What are you hoping is the takeaway for these audiences when they come out to see you guys?
Michael: Well, it differs for different age groups. I think my goal for the people that lived through the 60’s and grew up with the music in that era, is that we somehow take them back. You can’t go back there physically, because the world doesn’t stop turning and you can’t go back but you can go back to that world sonically. You can really go back there, close your eyes, listen to us singing these songs today, and remember where you were when you first heard it. You can recall what memories a certain song will stir up. That’s the gift that I really love to give audiences that were alive then. It’s a chance for them to go back and relive a moment, even if it’s only for the 90-minutes that we’re on stage. That’s a beautiful gift you can give to yourself, remembering things that happened to you then.
For those that did not live then, I love that we’re introducing this music to a lot of new people. A lot of people come with their grandparents or with their mom and dad. We see teenagers and people in their early 20’s and all of the sudden they’re bopping their heads and they’re getting it. They’re getting why this music is so connective. Not only that they’re discovering new artists. They’re discovering the four of us but for the first time they’re discovering The Ronettes. Or they’re discovering that there’s a group called The Mamas and The Papas. All of the sudden they hear these groups, they go home and google them, and we have given them the gift of that discovery. That’s what I love about what we do all across America. A lot of times we introduce this music to people.
Is there a moment during The Midtown Men show that really defines that show for you?
Michael: The show has a very “Rat Pack” feel to it. Four guys on stage together, they would sing together, they would joke together. A lot of our show is the joking. The friendship that I mentioned before is not just “oh, hey, we’re friends.” You know we’ve known each other and have been singing together for ten years now, so we have a well of stories that come up and come out. A lot of times it’s just a big funny laugh-time in-between songs. And then it gets serious and we perform some song that everybody loves. There’s an ebb and a flow of comedy and music.
You’ve accomplished playing Frankie Valli, and of course yourself, are there any “bucket-list” roles left for you?
Michael: I know! But you know? I’m open to brand new stuff. If I could be attached to another musical from the beginning like I was with Jersey Boys that would be a dream come true.
Why do you want people to come out and see The Midtown Men?
Michael: I feel like if you want to hear 60’s music sung by four amazing vocalists, this is the show. We’ve all been singing our whole lives. Each of us comes from different backgrounds of singing and from different parts of the country. We all met on Broadway in Jersey Boys, so that makes it a good story to follow. Just to be a part of the music, to hear those four voices together— it used to happen every night on Broadway in Jersey Boys, but now you get to see it in your town. Music is such a huge part of my life, I’m so grateful to do it every day. I mean I’ve been singing together with these guys for ten years but I’ve been singing music my entire life and getting to put that on stage every night for people is a blessing. I can’t wait for the fans to come out and see it, we couldn’t do this without people wanting to come out and see us and hear us.
The Midtown Men will play a one-night only engagement at The Weinberg Center for the Arts— 20 W. Patrick Street in the historical district of downtown Frederick, MD. For tickets call the box office at (301) 600-2828 or purchase them online.