Photo: The Midtown Men
The Midtown Men
Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard, and J. Robert Spencer
The Louisville Orchestra
Bob Bernhardt, conductor
Review by Annette Skaggs.
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
Louisville is very fortunate in having its Broadway in Louisville Series as part of the arts scene and their presentations always bring a bit of the “Great White Way” to our beloved River City. Lucky for us we have a world-class orchestra that recognizes that the Broadway stars are still out there and seek out collaborations with such. What was intended to be an evening of the orchestra serving as the instrumentalists for the Midtown Men turned into a wonderful Act 1 concert by the orchestra followed by a nice performance of the Midtown Men and their band for the second half. Unfortunately, a licensing snafu occurred and the orchestra was not permitted to perform along with the Midtown Men. Such is life sometimes, but the show must go on. And go on it certainly did.
If you are not familiar with the Midtown Men, you are certainly familiar with their roots. Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard, and J. Robert Spencer first worked together as the original cast members/singers of the Broadway hit Jersey Boys, based on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. As the men worked together for 8 shows a week on Broadway they found that in their downtime they had an increased affinity for the sounds of the 1960s and they would be seen in each other’s dressing rooms working up harmonies and melodies with classic 60’s staples. Thus, the Midtown Men were born. The group has been going strong for nearly 10 years now and have headlined all over the world.
Throughout the whole of their concert, I could hear why they were cast as the Jersey Boys, but there were some trouble spots. Notably, the reworking of some of the harmonies of well-known and beloved songs just didn’t work well. The classic Beatles hit, “Got to Get You Into My Life” had a falling domino effect as it pertained to pitch sustainability. The same held true for The Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”. But on the bright side, their Jersey Boys medley had me thinking of when I had first heard them, several years ago. Of course, the guys were given some solo time and they all did quite well with their respective songs, the especially regional guy (from Ohio) Daniel Reichard’s “Cry for Me”. But I do have to say that Mr. Longoria, who played Frankie Valli in the show, was having a very rough night, but by the finale of “Bye Bye Baby”, he was soaring into the stratosphere. These guys are pros at what they do and their energy certainly had the audience entertained and there is no denying their attraction. Their band is pretty tight, too.
Let’s shift focus to the first half of the evening, featuring our Louisville Orchestra. We begin with an exciting and luscious medley from John Kander and Fred Ebb’s Chicago. Despite the first measure feeling a little languid, a quick flip of the wrist got everything humming to the right tempo. Filled with seductive woods, winds, and percussion this piece had me re-watching the movie in my mind. In his address to the audience, our Maestro Bob Bernhardt shared that his thoughts for the theme of the evening would be cultivating songs that are related to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. In his introduction to the next piece, he stated something that is a wonderful truth about many of us, that some of our first exposure to classical music was through Warner Brothers cartoons. No piece of music signifies the rising of the sun better than Grieg’s “Morning Mood” from Peer Gynt. What does that have to do with the guest artists? Remember the song “Dawn”. Yes indeed, one could visualize the awakening of the world entwined within this famous piece. However, there was a moment within the winds were their falling notes were tripping on top of each other. It was a quick fall though. Johann Strauss, Jr.’s “Wine, Women and Song” was our next selection. The tie into Frankie Valli? “Sherry”, an elegant waltz with sweeping strings and winds.
Next, we have the stunning work of Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings Symphonic Suite. While the good Maestro characterized this as part of the program where he plays what he likes, he did make a reference to the Four Seasons, particularly songs about marriage/commitments…the ring on the finger. Upon the beginning of this piece, there were audible oohs and aahs from the audience. I guess Louisville likes The Lord of the Rings. Perhaps that could be the next Orchestra at the Movies? With a melody that reminds me of my time in the Irish Isles, I can certainly see why this piece is among Mr. Bernhardt’s favorites. In closing, Bizet’s Les Toréadors from Carmen lit the night up with spice. And the tie in? “My Eyes Adored You” or “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”. It was great practice for our orchestra to play this most recognizable piece, as they will be performing Carmen with the Kentucky Opera later this year.
It truly was a lovely evening of music and fun to revisit the AM dial of yesteryear again.
The Midtown Men
February 16, 2019
Whitney Hall, Kentucky Center
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.
2019 Arts-Louisville/Broadway World Theatre Award Sponsorship provided by