BWW Reviews: Four Original JERSEY BOYS Bring the Sixties to Des Moines
I was truly born a generation too late. Growing up, I loved watching the Malt Shop Memories infomercial because I love the music of the 50’s and 60’s. So it was that I found myself at Sunday night's performance by The Midtown Men at Hoyt Sherman Place.
The Midtown Men features Michael Longoria, Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, and J. Robert Spencer, all of whom were members of the original cast of Jersey Boys. Longoria actually originated the Joe Pesci role before going on to play Frankie Valli. Hoff, Reichard and Spencer portrayed Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio, and Nick Massi respectively.
The group, backed by a seven-piece band, started off a bit shaky. Longoria was missing notes and, though no fault of their own, the sound balance between the band and the men was off and the voices were drowned out during the first song. The group slowly hit their stride after three or four numbers such as "Can't Buy Me Love." Not surprisingly, after over 1,000 performances of Jersey Boys, their Four Seasons numbers were the strongest. Reichard, the most enthusiastic of the bunch, brought down the house with “Cry for Me.”
When covering other artists such as the Beatles, The Mamas and the Papas, and the Monkees, The Midtown Men wisely did not fiddle with the original sound of the songs. They clearly know their audience and stepping too far from the original would risk alienating the crowd who was there to hear the hits as they remembered them from their youth. Only one, “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” really did not work in four part male harmony.
There were a couple things unrelated to vocals or music that fell flat. The prepared comedy filler between the songs became grating after their first couple bits. Also, the Men’s level of commitment to the dorky dance moves varied widely; Hoff and Reichard were clearly having a ball while Longoria and Spencer at times appeared a little irritated that they had to do them at all. While those items were minor in the grand scheme of the evening they were noticeable nonetheless.
Despite some wobbles, The Midtown Men have a hit on their hands thanks to the catchy songs of that era. And despite some gray hairs, the audience willingly danced back in time to meet them there and celebrate the good times. Oh, what a night indeed.