From 'Jersey,' with love: Midtown Men singer Michael Longoria on falling in love with '60s pop

 The Midtown Men will perform Nov. 18 at the State Theatre in Easton.  (Courtesy Photo)

The Midtown Men will perform Nov. 18 at the State Theatre in Easton. (Courtesy Photo)

Had it not been for the music of the 1960s, the Broadway musical "Jersey Boys" would never have happened and, in turn, the Midtown Men would cease to exist.

Singer Michael Longoria said during a Nov. 1 phone interview that not only is he thankful for the career the decade has given him, but that he and his fellow Midtown Men take the songs that permeated the pop culture of the decade quite seriously. 

"Our repertoire is constantly evolving because there are so many amazing musicians from that era," he said. "When we sing together, it's a unique sound. We learned how to make music together. When we are the Midtown Men, we are one voice."

Longoria and his music brethren -- singers Christian Hoff, Daniel Richard and J. Robert Spencer -- got their start as original cast members of "Jersey Boys," the hit musical based on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Longoria played the roles of Valli and Joe Pesci in the show. (Pesci introduced childhood friend Valli to singer-songwriter Bob Gaudio, which, in turn, led to the formation of the Four Seasons.)

"It's an actor's dream to play two contrasting roles," Longoria said. "Joe Pesci was very comedic and energetic. I would have to image what this older man would be as a 16-, 17-year-old kid."

While skeptics were quick to write off the production as nothing more than a "jukebox musical," Longoria said, "Jersey Boys" became a bona fide success. "Jersey Boys" opened on Broadway in 2005 and, a year later, earned four Tony Awards. It also spawned a 2014 Clint Eastwood-directed feature film. 

Longoria says, in many ways, "Jersey Boys" informs the music of the Midtown Men. The group, which formed in 2009, performs pop tunes ranging from The Beatles and The Rascals to Motown and, of course, The Four Seasons. He described the show as an "audio time capsule." 

"One of my favorite memories is looking down in the audience and seeing a 12-year-old boy singing the words to 'Walk Like a Man' with me," Longoria said. 

A fan of "bubble gum pop" of the '60s, Longoria -- who got his start in show business as a singing waiter on Broadway -- said each member of the Midtown Men brings a different flavor, and vocal dynamic, to the performance. "We grew up with different influences in our lives, whether it be music or culturally," he said. "What's amazing about it is each of us brings a different perspective."

The singer says, over time, he realized that the drama he and his fellow cast members were acting out on stage was mirroring itself in real life. "As a singer, I was really able to relate what that journey is about. That was something we were pretending to do, now we were doing it," he said. "All the fights were acted out ... moments like that happen."

Asked to pick his favorite song to perform, Longoria said the Four Seasons' "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" tops the list.

"I love that this music was written by teenagers, so it has that teenage youth energy, that hope, to conquer the world; we have the rights, our voices matter," he said. "I feel like when I perform it now, it's so relevant to this world. It gives voice back to those people."

The Midtown Men perform 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, at the State Theatre, 453 Northampton St., Easton. Tickets cost $50 and $45. Information: 610-252-3132, statetheatre.org