BWW Interviews: Daniel Reichard Previews THE MIDTOWN MEN'S Debut Performance in Providence
Daniel Reichard joined BroadwayWorld Rhode Island to discuss The Midtown Men's upcoming debut at the Providence Performing Arts Center. Reichard spoke warmly about the enduring friendship and professional collaboration between the men in the group - four original Jersey Boys Broadway cast members - and the lasting resonance of the music of the 1960s. He also reminisced about a high-flying adventure that took him from Connecticut's Goodspeed Opera House to the heart of Atlantic City, all while dressed in an otter costume.
VB: You have four original Jersey Boys cast mates together again. How have your relationships developed over the years, and what's the group dynamic like?
DR: I'm happy to say that we've been collaborating for almost ten years now, and we're getting along better now than ever. A lot of that has to do with these years together on the road as The Midtown Men have really forced us to build a very functional and respectful friendship and business partnership. I think it takes practice sometimes, but we've gotten really good at talking to each other and trying to listen and understand where people are coming from always. And even when there's disagreement, you learn how to work through it better, and basically that's because we have a lot of practice at it.
It's hard to have an artistic collaboration and a business partnership with three other guys because everybody comes to the table with a lot of strong opinions, with different styles, different approaches. So the fact that we've been able to navigate this whole successful touring show together, I'm very, very proud of [that].
VB: Was the genesis of The Midtown Men from that collaboration? Is that what drew you to the project?
DR: It sort of happened by a beautiful accident. We were playing The Four Seasons on Broadway together, and we were being asked to sing together at these kind of fancy events, at big charities, galas, or fundraisers. After we did this for a while - after we did it, I don't know, 20 times - we realized that we had put together an actual show. So, just over three and a half years ago, the guys and I said (we all got on the phone) let's get together, let's reunite and bring this show that we've been doing to actual concert halls and basically tour like any other large Broadway show does. That's what we've done, and since then we've played over 300 concerts all over the continent together, everything from performing arts centers to major casinos to symphony halls now. From a sort of side gig, it turned into this wonderful, successful music group.
The memories being made together as The Midtown Men for me have almost eclipsed the Jersey Boys memories - and that says a lot, because the Jersey Boys experience on Broadway was so thrilling - but I think when you create something yourself, you're not just part of creating something but you literally build something from nothing to something successful, there's just something special about it. It's your baby.
VB: It sounds like it was an ideal combination of the group's camaraderie and the music itself, then.
DR: That's right and that's what we're really, you could call it selling, promoting, presenting: we're playing our friendship out - our very fun and complicated friendship - on these stages for audiences, and we really let people into that whole "behind the scenes" friendship and the complexity of our relationship. We're very lightheartedly letting our audiences in on what really unifies us; as I see in [The Midtown Men] show, no matter where we are or what we're going through on the road, the thing that always brings us together is the music and that is the truth.
The music of the 1960s has not only such huge cultural relevance even now in 2014, it means so much to us personally. We have a very genuine passion for this music and we're presenting it with a certain style and with this show business edge that is pretty unique to our own show. We're singing these great songs of the 1960s, but there's this sort of theatrical flair to our arrangements. You hear the horn section; it's a very important part of presenting The Midtown Men's style, and there's certain brassiness and regality to this. It's strong and our versions of these 1960s songs are drawing from the entertainers like Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. So you're getting a little feeling of that kind of elegant, classic presentation that those kinds of artists brought, but in our show, it's to these great rock 'n' roll classics.
VB: It sounds like such a rich presentation!
DR: It's fun! If we're lucky, people are cheering really loud from the very first song, but if we have a shy audience, it usually only takes 15 minutes at the most until everybody is really connecting to the show. And then, of course, at the end of every performance for about ten minutes, people are up on their feet dancing and smiling and screaming. We see everyone from 10 to 100 years old, and it's pretty amazing how in different ways, this music in our show connects to people of multiple generations.
VB: Do you have any favorite songs from the performance?
DR: I love our Motown sequence. We do a ten-minute Motown sequence that we customize and each of us trade off on leads on. I, of course, love singing "Cry for Me" which I sang in Jersey Boys and on the show's album. It's one of the several songs in the show that we've performed thousands of times in public, but there's just something very fun about getting to sing that song. It's sort of my work, my career's jewel; it's that song that I'm proud to say that is, in so many ways, mine. I take a great pride in singing "Cry for Me."
VB: Would you share a little bit about your experience in Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas at the Goodspeed [located in East Haddam, CT]?
DR: My first professional lead role was at the Goodspeed Opera House - it was Charlie in Brigadoon -
very quickly after I graduated from college. Then after Jersey Boys, after I played Candide at the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center right after Jersey Boys, my next project was this show Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, which Jim Henson's estate still owns. We got to work with the incredible Brian Henson, Jim Henson's son, and the Henson organization's costume department and puppetry department.
When I was a boy, the first movie I was given on videocassette was The Muppet Movie when I was two years old. My parents never bought video tapes ever, so that was a big deal. I grew up with The Muppets and the work and the vision of Jim Henson, and I've been lucky enough to know people that were working on this new musical, especially the wonderful director, Christopher Gattelli, who has directed and choreographed some incredible shows, including his work on Newsies.
So I got to spend a few months in this otter body suit. They dressed me exactly like Emmet Otter from the classic television special Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, and I got to play - you know, we'd be doing scenes with puppets - it was so charming, so fun.
As a matter of fact, there was one time when I was singing with the guys, and we had one concert (this was before we were The Midtown Men) [with] a late show in Atlantic City. There was one performance on a day that I had an Emmet Otter show and . . . a little five-seater plane picked me up on the runway next to the Goodspeed Opera House. I ran out after my show - in full Emmet Otter makeup, I had my animal face on - got onto this five-seater plane on this little, tiny runway off the Goodspeed Opera House, [and] flew to Atlantic City. [I] landed there, got in a limo - was changing in the car, got into a tuxedo - got out of the limo, got into . . . Caesar's and performed . . . got back in the limo, got back in the plane, and landed back at the Goodspeed Opera House by 2:30 in the morning that same night so I could be there for my next matinee.
VB: That was an adventure - incredible! I can't imagine trying to make that run in the otter suit, though; it seemed like it was detailed and so heavy just to make that sprint out to the plane.
DR: It was really living life on the edge! It was very fun, and just to be able to do something that was so outside of the box as a theater show like Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas; I'd done nothing like it.
Something I think I'm proudest of in my career as a stage actor is how broad of a range of roles I've been blessed to play so far - everything from comedic, zany impersonations in Forbidden Broadway to the shy Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys to the incredibly earnest, starry-eyed Candide to Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas - it's been wonderful to be able to have had so many totally different opportunities.
VB: What's next for you in the coming months? Are you exclusively touring with The Midtown Men or do you have some other projects in the works?
DR: The guys and I are currently in the middle of our fourth national tour together [and] next year, we're going to do our fifth. Our schedule, and how much we work and how much we tour - we're on, sometimes, four airplanes a week - we don't have much opportunity to work on other things. But we're figuring out, long-term, how we're going to be able to continue this thing together and continue the fun experiences of our own careers.
The Midtown Men play the Providence Performing Arts Center for one night only, Wednesday, February 12, 2014. Ticket prices range from $29-57; to purchase tickets, contact PPAC by phone at (401) 421-ARTS (2787), book online at www.ppacri.org, or visit the box office at 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI.
Pictured L-R: Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard, and J. Robert Spencer
Photo courtesy The Providence Performing Arts Center