July 23 the original cast of the Tony award winning “Jersey Boys” will perform at the Lancaster Festival. (Photo courtesy of artist management)

Much More Than Covers: Midtown Men Head to Lancaster Festival

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In 2005, Jersey Boys, a jukebox musical covering the rise, popularity and eventual dissolution of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, took the country (and the world) by storm.

The show was nominated for a whopping eight Tony Awards; four of which it won, including the esteemed Best Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (John Lloyd Young) and Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Christian Hoff).

Although you can still catch the show being performed all over the globe, one could argue that an equally enjoyable time might be had catching a performance by the Midtown Men, the original cast of Jersey Boys. The group has been traveling all over the country, doing everything from performing with ‘60s rock ‘n’ roll royalty (we’re talking the big names here, like La La Brooks of The Crystals, Shirley Alston Reeves of The ShirellesGene Cornish of The Rascals and Petula Clark) to singing at the National Tree Lighting Ceremony at the White House last holiday season. Their show consists of skillful choreography and nuanced covers of some of the greatest hits of the ‘60s.

As luck would have it, the group is heading to Southeast Ohio. July 23, the Midtown Men (made up of Tony Award winner Christian HoffMichael LongoriaDaniel Reichard and Tony Award nominee J. Robert Spencer) will perform at the 2016 Lancaster Festival with the Lancaster Festival Orchestra backing them up.

Christian Hoff, (who played the part of Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys) said that he is quite excited to be headed to Lancaster.

“You know, the most special thing about what we do is that we can do it anywhere,” he said in an interview several weeks before the Lancaster Festival performance. “We love to perform so much that it’s actually a big part of the fun to be in different venues; whether it’s with a national symphony orchestra in Washington D.C. or at a backyard barbecue. A festival environment is always exciting. Because, you know, the roof is already blown off, if you will!”

Although these tunes might have climbed the charts some 50 years back, Hoff explained that they are relevant in more ways than one.

(Photo courtesy of artist management)
(Photo courtesy of artist management)

“The great thing about this music is that no matter what generation you hail from, this music is relevant,” said Hoff. “It’s a part of the fabric of not only classic pop music from the ‘60s and beyond, but also current pop music; which is so informed by those classic songs. We have kids who sing along with our songs just as much as grandparents.”

Hoff said that one of his favorite songs that he provides lead vocals on is “Time of the Season,” by psychedelic pop group The Zombies, off of their masterwork “Odessey and Oracle,” released in 1968.

“It’s a good one to perform because it’s kind of sexy, but it’s also poignant at the same time,” said Hoff. “’It’s the season for loving,’ when is that message not appropriate?”

Hoff said that message is just one example of how he examines the tunes that the group features in their shows.

“Sometimes it feels like the ‘60s are kind of rubbing off on me, I look at each song we perform from a social and emotional level, not only the musical level,” said Hoff. “I think that’s the difference between our group and other “cover” groups. We really are digging into this as Broadway actors. The concerts are just that: a celebration of the music but held together with a backbone that examines the perspectives of four younger guys who are performing this music. The story that we tell is happening now, we’re just using the greatest hits of the ‘60s to tell that story.”