Whether it’s from their spectacular run on Broadway as cast members of the hit musical “Jersey Boys” or in their current gig as a quartet of vocal dynamos singing well-known tunes as The Midtown Men, there is an intangible quality to these four performers.
“When people see the original guys from ‘Jersey Boys’ touring the country, they remember the chemistry,” said J. Robert Spencer, who played Nick Massi in “Jersey Boys” and founded The Midtown Men.
“I think chemistry for vocal groups is so much more important, because you’re sharing something much more intimate and personal when you use your voice,” said Travis Cloer, the newest Midtown Man and a cast member of the original “Jersey Boys” show who portrayed Franki Valli in the long-running Las Vegas production. “It’s such a huge part of yourself that you’re giving to someone else.”
The one thing I said to the guys when I wanted to form this thing, ... I said as long as it’s not a wedding band.
J. Robert Spencer
The voices, the classic songs, the chemistry and the incredible behind-the-scenes, rags-to-riches story of Franki Valli and the Four Seasons is what helped “Jersey Boys” make a huge splash when it debuted on Broadway in 2005, winning four Tony Awards including best musical and running more than 11 years. The Midtown Men formed when four of the Broadway production’s cast members — Spencer, Christian Hoff (Tommy DeVito), Daniel Reichard (Bob Gaudio) and Michael Longoria (Joe Pesci) — turned what started as a side gig performing at charity events and private parties into a full-on singing group in 2009 that went well beyond the Four Seasons catalog.
“When we were in the show, we were singing this great music, but there were some restrictions on what we could do,” Cloer said.
Said Spencer: “Our show just keeps evolving and blossoming with this amazing music of the ’60s.”
The Midtown Men specialize in singing iconic songs of the ’60s from The Beatles, The Monkees, The Mammas and the Papas, The Jackson 5, The Beach Boys, The Turtles, several Motown hits and — no surprise — some Four Seasons favorites. What separates The Midtown Men from being simply a cover band is that the group does its own vocal and musical arrangements and creates its own choreography on a national touring production, with plenty of Broadway flash.
“The one thing I said to the guys when I wanted to form this thing, ... I said as long as it’s not a wedding band. I don’t want to do a wedding band,” Spencer said. “This is a theatrical experience. We have to be artists when we go about it.”
When you’re part of something as big as ‘Jersey Boys,’ it’s hard to let go of something like that completely.
The Midtown Men have received plenty of accolades, performing with numerous symphony orchestras, on television and from Beijing to The White House. As they embark on their seventh national tour, which will return to Lexington this weekend at the Lexington Opera House, The Midtown Men will be rounded out by Cloer, who replaces Longoria while he performs in an off-Broadway show. Cloer was in the original Broadway cast of “Jersey Boys” and knew the Franki Valli role inside and out from performing the musical in Vegas, so Spencer said it made for an almost seamless transition for this latest incarnation of The Midtown Men. More than anything, though, it revived a Broadway bond from when they were “Boys” that is infectious when these “Men” take the stage together.
“We’re really pleased that we can continue this show. We can just keep that wonderful door revolving with all of these brothers that we met,” Spencer said.
Said Cloer: “The chemistry just picked right back up. When you’re part of something as big as ‘Jersey Boys,’ it’s hard to let go of something like that completely. There’s something really special between us that only we will know.”