BWW Interviews: The Original Cast of JERSEY BOYS Reconnects with Audiences, Music as Midtown Men
Christian Hoff has a record amount of voices inside his head. He holds a Guinness World's Record for "Most Character Voices in an Audio Book" doing 241 separate voices in Tell Me How You Love the Picture, based on the career of movie producer Ed Feldman.
Hoff will be using his ability to sound like someone else when the Midtown Men perform a variety of hits from the Sixties with the Columbus Symphony 8 p.m. Nov. 9 at Ohio Theatre (55 East State St.).
"This tour is kind of blowing our minds," Hoff says. "We've got this combination of symphony shows and private dates, galas and performing arts centers. It's great to see the roof get blown off and that has a lot to do with our fans and audiences responses to the show."
"It's a crusade bringing people together around live music and theater. We love doing what we do. We want to see if we can take it to the next level. We want to reach the symphony crowd, which is a little older and more sophisticated, as well as their grandkids. To have two or three generations of fans listening to us is amazing."
The Midtown Men consists of Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer, the original cast of JERSEY BOYS. Hoff won "Best Featured Actor in a Musical" for his portrayal of Tommy DeVito in the musical JERSEY BOYS in 2006. Spencer was nominated for a Tony in 2009 for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Dan Goodman in NEXT TO NORMAL.
Hoff and his former cast mates will share lead singer duties as they run through a gamut of classics from Motown to the British Invasion. Hoff will offer his take on Smokey Robinson's "Tears of A Clown," The Zombie's "Time of the Season" and the Turtles' "Happy Together."
Columbus is one of a handful of stops where the Midtown Men will be accompanied by an orchestra. Hoff enjoys adding a lush sound to these Sixties staples.
"It's such an amazing experience. Metaphorically (going from the simple arrangements to playing with an orchestra) is like rowing down a lazy river to going into the rapids.," Hoff says. "We've taken our (versions) of this music and multiplied it by a talented, gifted orchestra like the Columbus Symphony."
Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, some of the artists whom the Midtown Men emulate have been blown away by the quartet. It's not uncommon to see some of the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Famers, like the Rascals' guitarist Gene Cornish, join the fun when the Midtown Men roll into town. Tommy James, who wrote "Crimson & Clover," I Think We're Alone Now", and "Mony, Mony," called the band "the real deal" and Paul Anka, who penned "Diana," "Put Your Head on My Shoulder" and "You're Having My Baby," said they were "superb. Bravo!"
"It's one thing to enjoy what you do," Hoff says. "But when it connects with the audience and gets that kind of feedback (from the original performers) ... that's what it is all about."
One of their most famous encounters was with New Jersey legend Bruce Springsteen, who first checked out the four when they were in JERSEY BOYS. The quartet was invited to perform with the Boss, Elvis Costello and Dion at the Right 2 Rock concert honoring Springsteen guitarist Steven Van Zandt on Oct. 16, 2012 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.
After Hurricane Sandy caused over $71 billion worth of damage to the New York and New Jersey 15 days later, Van Zandt helped the Midtown Men record a charity single, "All Alone for Christmas," with all the profits going to the Red Cross. Van Zandt originally wrote the song for the movie "Home Alone 2" but came up with a new arraignment for the Midtown Men. Van Zandt also played guitar and recruited members of the E Street Band to back up the quartet.