NJTV builds national presence with Midtown Men special

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KAT VILLACORTE/NJTV

From left, he Midtown Men are Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, J. Robert Spencer and Daniel Reichard.

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. It’s a smooth, feel-good act, with plenty of synchronized dancing to go along with the singing.

Midtown Man Daniel Reichard says, at one point, that “while we were playing Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in that show, something not too surprising happened to us: We absolutely fell in love with the greatest decade in rock ‘n’ roll history, the 1960s. So we’d visit each other’s dressings rooms, in intermission, in between shows. We started working out the harmonies of all our favorite groups of the ’60s.”

And so now they are a touring and recording group, independent of that show.

Reichard played Bob Gaudio in the original “Jersey Boys,” while fellow Midtown Men Christian Hoff and J. Robert Spencer played Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi, respectively (and Hoff won a Tony in the role). The fourth Midtown Man, Michael Longoria, had a small role in the original “Jersey Boys” but later replaced John Lloyd Young as lead vocalist Valli. (In The Midtown Men, everyone shares lead vocal responsibility on non-Four Seasons material.)

The hour-long “The Midtown Men Live in Concert!” will be shown Saturday at 7 p.m. on NJTV, Saturday at 8:30 p.m. on Channel Thirteen, and Sunday at 7 p.m. on WLIW21. There will be additional airings in other markets, and a national rollout in March.

In a press release NJTV general manager John Servidio called the special “a milestone for us all, proving that quality content with topnotch talent from a local television network can have a national presence.”

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