If you buy tickets to a production called “The Midtown Men” in a series called “Broadway Live,” you might expect to see an actual show, like “Rent,” “Pippin,” “Cinderella,” or “Barefoot in the Park,” the other titles that series offered during this past season at the Lexington Opera House. You might even build upon that expectation if you know that “The Midtown Men” is billed as a spinoff of the long-running Broadway hit “Jersey Boys.” But it is not a show, nor even really a theatrical experience. It is a concert, plain and simple.
The four stars Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, J. Robert Spencer, and Travis Cloer have banded together to parlay their “Jersey Boys” success into a profitable 1960s cover group, although they resort to ending each half with medleys of songs from that show. The concert explores the sweeter, more innocent side of the ’60s — no drug songs or protest anthems here — milking the inherent nostalgia in music by such early pop/rock icons as The Mamas & The Papas, The Beach Boys and The Monkees. The Midtown Men, as the graduated Jersey Boys now call themselves, alternately croon and belt the familiar tunes with professional vocalism. Hoff especially demonstrates the charismatic persona that won him a Tony Award 11 years ago, and his big solo “What a Day For a Daydream” is the highlight of the performance. Reichard also stands out with his rendition of “Cry For Me” from “Jersey Boys,” in which he played Bob Gaudio. Spencer’s “California Dreamin’” is also very enjoyable. As the Frankie Valli-voiced high tenor, Cloer carries the heaviest load musically. After years of singing that role on Broadway and then in Las Vegas, Cloer’s voice is steely rather than sweet, but his skill in maintaining the demanding energy of the vocals, and mostly in tune, is admirable.
Their simplistic moves are uniform and well-rehearsed, and adequate to the concert. But again, it is not choreography at a show level. Really, it is more like Backstreet Boys steps and gestures pared down for middle-aged guys. Similarly, the singers come back after intermission with a change of jacket, but you could not really call this “costuming,” nor do rickety banners bearing the MM logo and skyscraper outlines flanking a projection screen really constitute a “set.” Dimming and brightening the lights, and working a few followspots are not really a “lighting plot.” In fact, none of the production elements at all are given credit in the program, including no producer, director, choreographer, company manager, or any other design aspect, further reducing the likeness of this event to a theatrical experience.
Incredibly, even the excellent seven-piece band (also all middle-aged white guys) accompanying the Midtown Men are not acknowledged in the program, although they are unintelligibly introduced from the stage. Only the four stars are in the program, and even if they self-produced this concert, the assistance they received from other professionals customarily should receive program notice. It was disconcerting to attend a show without credits.
Perhaps forewarned is forearmed: the Midtown Men will definitely appeal to their audience, but don’t go expecting “Jersey Boys.” This is not a musical, nor is it even a theatrically conceived musical revue. It is four former Jersey boys singing music from the ’60s, half-in and half-out of their show personas. If that sounds enjoyable to you, then you will love it.
Tedrin Blair Lindsay: email@example.com.