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NJTV builds national presence with Midtown Men special

midtown Men Cousin Brucie

NJTV’s found a fitting subject for its first national public television special: A concert by the Midtown Men. The group, after all, features alumni of the Broadway musical “Jersey Boys,” which is devoted to the story of the great New Jersey band, The Four Seasons. And at one point of “The Midtown Men Live in Concert!” — filmed at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark at May — Gene Cornish, of another Jersey-born Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group, The Rascals, joins them to sing backing vocals and play harmonica on the Rascals hit, “Groovin’.” The special, as a whole, is more of a tribute to ’60s pop music in general than to just the Four Seasons. Yes, the Midtown Men sing plenty of Four Seasons songs, but they also harmonize on a bunch of Motown classics, as well as songs by The Turtles (“Happy Together”), The Ronettes (“Be My Baby”), The Mamas and the Papas (“California Dreamin’ “), The Drifters (“Up on the Roof”), The Association (“Never My Love”) and others. Continue Reading →

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‘Driving Jersey’ goes to the movies

The edition of the public-television series “Driving Jersey” that premieres tonight at 8:30 on NJTV is a particularly rich one, as it focuses on the world of movies, and there’s a lot of movie-related sites in New Jersey to drive to. Director Steve Rogers takes a tour of Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, where the film industry was born; interviews film fans outside a screening “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank; encourages a former employee of the now-defunct Colonial Theatre on Long Beach Island to reminisce; and travels to sites in Riverton and Pennsauken where the concept of the drive-in theater was invented, as well as the state’s only currently active drive-in, the Delsea in Vineland. Many of the interviewees are asked to talk about their favorite movies, and the tone throughout the entire half-hour program is sweet and nostalgic. “I just think there’s a nice charm to it that you don’t get from sitting in a movie theater,” says a young Delsea Theatre film-goer, about the drive-in experience. “There’s something else; it’s kind of a different experience by itself.” Continue Reading →

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‘American Songbook at NJPAC’ artists salute classics in strikingly different ways

You might assume that the “American Songbook at NJPAC” series is one-dimensional, featuring a succession of artists performing favorites from the Great American Songbook. But the three sets that were filmed Sunday at NJPAC’s Victoria Theater (for later broadcast on public television stations NJTV,  WLIW and Thirteen) offered distinctly different — and equally effective — ways to pay homage. John Pizzarelli and his seven-piece band delved deeply into the work of songwriter Johnny Mercer. Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana, performing together, juxtaposed classic Broadway duets with more modern Broadway material. And Nellie McKay occasionally dipped into the Songbook but stuck mainly to her own witty, Songbook-influenced originals. Continue Reading →

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