While they were busy on Broadway originating the roles of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in “Jersey Boys,” four of the show’s stars were also singing other classics of the 1960s on the side.
“We kept getting these calls, asking if the four of us could perform at corporate events and private parties,” said J. Robert Spencer, who originated the role of bass guitarist and bass singer Nick Massi. “We said we couldn’t do the Four Seasons songs because of our contracts, but we could sing Beach Boys songs and Beatles songs and Rascals songs.
“And that’s how the Midtown Men started, because people were asking us to do it.”
After Spencer, Christian Hoff (who played Tommy DeVito), Daniel Reichard (Bob Gaudio) and Michael Longoria (the original production’s second Valli) each left the show and went their separate ways, the foursome came back together as the Midtown Men full time five years ago.
Two albums, a Christmas song produced by Steven Van Zandt with backing by members of the E Street Band, a PBS special and nearly 2,000 live shows followed.
“In a way, our notoriety for the Midtown Men eclipsed our notoriety for ‘Jersey Boys’,” Spencer, whose next role in “Next to Normal” garnered a Tony nomination, said. “We are so incredibly blessed to love what we do, and audiences keep embracing us over and over.”
The Midtown Men will be at the Keystone Grand Ballroom at 8 p.m. July 25 Mohegan Sun Pocono. Hope you already have your tickets, as the show is completely sold out.
The group’s first album, “Sixties Hits,” was released in 2011, and the 2014 PBS special, “The Midtown Men: Live in Concert,” was subsequently released on CD, DVD and Blu-ray, and will be shown again in September during the next pledge drive.
In addition to Four Seasons’ favorites such as “Let’s Hang On,” “Working My Way Back to You,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Sherry” and “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” the group also does fine renditions of other ‘60s classics such as “Can’t Buy Me Love” (The Beatles), “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (The Beach Boys), “Groovin’” (The Rascals) and “Happy Together” (The Turtles).
Spencer, who said he is normally a baritone/tenor and only sings bass on the Four Seasons songs, usually sings lead on the Jimmy Webb tune “Galveston” made famous by Glen Campbell and “Ain’t That Peculiar” by Marvin Gaye, whom he called his favorite singer.
Spencer said the group was still riding high from a recent sold-out performance at New York City’s Beacon Theatre with Shirley Alston Reeves of the Shirelles, La La Brooks of the Crystals, Gene Cornish of the Rascals and Petula Clark sitting in on a few tunes.
“Can you imagine, we got to sing ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ with Shirley, and ‘Good Lovin’ while Gene provided that well-known guitar, and then we sang ‘Downtown’ with Petula Clark!”
Spencer, who is also an independent film director, producer and writer, was just finishing up a role as Abraham Lincoln in “The unCivil War,” which he described as a “seven man, bluegrass musical comedy,” when he called to talk about the upcoming concert.
“In a few days, my beard comes off and I will be back on stage with the Midtown Men,” he said.
Brad Patton has been reviewing concerts and writing about music for the Times Leader and Weekender for more than five years. He also hosts a two-hour radio show on 88.5 FM-WRKC (Radio King’s College) every Tuesday at 7 p.m.
IF YOU GO
Who: The Midtown Men
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Keystone Grand Ballroom at Mohegan Sun Pocono, 1280 Highway 315, Plains Twp. For more information: visit www.themidtownmen.com