June 13--The Midtown Men bicker all the way to the stage -- as brothers might.
The singers could be arguing about which socks look best or which attorney to bring on board, and the next instant, they're straightening ties or tossing towels to one another.
"No matter what, we huddle before every show and give thanks," Christian Hoff said. "We encourage each other to go out there and have fun."
The unlikely foursome came together almost by accident nearly 10 years ago -- a number that they find hard to believe -- as original members of the Broadway hit "Jersey Boys."
As the Midtown Men, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard, J. Robert Spencer and Hoff, will take the spotlight at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. They will be accompanied by about 88 members of the Pacific Symphony.
"Having the orchestra behind the four singers enhances the experience multifold," Director of Public Relations Jayce Keane wrote in an email. "The sound is layered, lush and luminous -- and provides an experience you won't forget."
This show will conclude the Symphony's Pops concerts for the year, which has earlier featured Kenny G, Amy Grant and Gladys Knight.
"It's hard to imagine a better or more memorable way to end the Symphony's season than with the Midtown Men," Keane said.
Hoff, a father of five from San Diego, was at home "minding his own business," when the phone rang.
Des McAnuff, with whom he'd worked on "The Who's Tommy," was on the other end with an offer to audition for another part in a musical: this one about the 1960s band the Four Seasons.
Hoff jumped in the car and arrived within an hour at a nearby studio, his children in tow, and strummed Eddie Cochran's "Somethin' Else." McAnuff also asked him to read a monologue as Seasons member Tommy DeVito -- a role for which we went on to bag a Tony Award.
"Des put out an arm around me and asked, 'What are you doing in three months?,'" Hoff recalled. "I said, 'Am I doing a show?' and he said, 'Yup.'"
A phone conversation from Hoff's car a few minutes later cemented his role in a show that was still missing a title and script.
After an out-of-state run in La Jolla, "Jersey Boys" went to Broadway in 2005. Crew members were handing out tickets during previews, according to Reichard, and a month later, the show was a "complete phenomenon."
"You could do a show that was a nice experience, but this was over-the-top success," said Reichard, 34, who originated the role of Bob Gaudio, the pianist and songwriter of the Four Seasons. "It was the toast of the town on Broadway -- it really was like living the dream."
This dream consisted of national TV appearances, performances on Dick Clark's "New Year's Rockin' Eve" on ABC, celebrities flocking to catch shows and fans lining up for a glimpse of their favorite "Boys."
The quartet performed more than 1,000 shows together before they diverged for other gigs -- a time that Reichard remembers being filled with focus and hard work. The ups and downs of show business blurred the lines between colleagues, friends and brothers, which enhanced their onstage chemistry.
For several years, they were invited to perform everywhere from Katie Couric's birthday party to a benefit for the Red Cross.
Eventually, the group teamed up again -- thanks in no small part to their common love for creation, music and rock n' roll history -- and decided to run with "what hadn't been part of a plan," he said. It was 2009, and the Midtown Men were born.
The name came from the four's shared experience on Broadway.
"Broadway is Midtown," Reichard said. "There is nothing more iconic in Midtown [Manhattan] other than Times Square and the Broadway scene. We aren't uptown or downtown guys."
Now, "Jersey Boys" serves as a backdrop, character names have been discarded, and the performers' personalities and stories are under the limelight.
"We turned 'Jersey Boys' inside out," said Hoff, 45, about the spinoff. "And our story, instead of being set to the music of the Four Seasons, is set to the music and history of the 1960s -- a very interesting time, culturally, socially, musically and politically, even."
'It's a big family'
Nearly 250 concerts later, it is common for the band to perform hits by the Drifters, the Mamas and the Papas, the Beatles, the Temptations and more at sold-out venues. They have also sung at the National Tree Lighting Ceremony at the White House, alongside James Taylor and Jason Mraz.
Their acts are peppered with personal, and often hysterical, stories about their lives and misguided adventures on- and offstage, encouraging viewers to repeatedly watch them live.
"There's a very deep relationship between the four of us," Reichard said. "We come together, make music and have an amazing time doing it. The audience is watching us play out our relationship in front of them, and they become part of it."
Per Hoff, life on the road is equal parts exhilaration and exhaustion. What inspires them, though, are audiences, regardless of whether they're in a seat for the first or last time. Some families also follow their journey from one state to another -- one recently traipsed after them from New Jersey to New Hampshire and cheered at three shows in as many days.
"We can be in a cornfield in Iowa, and a person will come up with a playbill that was signed during 'Jersey Boys,'" he said. "Someone else's daughter who we met when she was much younger is now graduating. It's a big family."
Looking to their performance at Segerstrom, Hoff and Reichard are waiting with bated breath to "beef out" their songs. While Costa Mesa is among the first cities to be treated to a symphonic appearance by the Midtown Men, their 2013-2014 season will be marked by 14 such shows, they revealed.
"We are excited to play with the symphony and also to have a whole new community for whom we are going to sing and get to be a part of," Reichard said.
Hoff echoed the sentiment, adding that the Zombies' "Time of the Season" is currently at the top of his music list.
"What it represents to me is that this is the time for loving, the time to come together," he said. "In a time when we are so divided as a country... it's about coming together against the odds. It's a song of camaraderie, of going against our natural tendency to split up and choose sides."
If You Go
What: The Midtown Men
Where: Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday
Cost: $35 to $185
Information: http://www.pacificsymphony.org or http://www.SCFTA.org
(c)2013 the Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, Calif.)
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