From barbershop quartets to the 1950 and 60s boy bands, the Four Freshman, the Four Lads, the Four Tops, and of course the Four Seasons, audiences have expected tight, complex harmonies, a great lead tenor (who can sing falsetto), choreographed dance moves, and light-hearted banter in between songs. On Friday morning, with a second show planned tonight at 8:00 p.m. at Kleinhans Music Hall, THE MIDTOWN MEN (comprised of the original cast of the Broadway musical THE JERSEY BOYS) didn’t disappoint.
On selected Friday mornings, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra offers both classical and pops concerts at Kleinhans, providing free coffee and donuts starting at 9:30 a.m. before the 10:30 a.m. concerts. They are a marriage made in heaven (or a “perfect storm” depending on your point of view). It seems that older people, those of us who came of age in the 50s and 60s, like to get up early, we love coffee and donuts and early bird specials, we don’t see so well anymore driving at night, and we love nostalgia. Throw in buses to take us to and from the retirement homes, and we’re there.
…it was no surprise that the hall was near capacity for the first of two shows.
So it was no surprise that the hall was near capacity for the first of two shows, but the universal acclaim for THE JERSEY BOYS has guaranteed an almost sell out for tonight’s concert, too.
BPO Principal Pops Conductor John Morris Russell opened with an orchestral number by Quincy Jones that you probably won’t know by name – “Soul Bossa Nova” – but will immediately recognize as the theme from AUSTIN POWERS. And, it included Maestro Russell doing a Mike Myers inspired dance. And then we were off on a series of hits made popular by THE (in alphabetical order): BEATLES, DRIFTERS, MAMAS AND THE PAPAS, MIRACLES, TURTLES, YOUNG RASCALS, and ZOMBIES. One song that didn’t fit was the then politically charged and today more relevant than ever “For What It’s Worth” by THE BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD (“Paranoia strikes deep / Into your heart it will creep / It starts when you’re always afraid / You step out of line, the man come and take you away.”)
But, without a doubt, the best singing, best harmonies, the most magic came when reprising songs that the four had rehearsed for years and years when portraying FRANKIE VALLI AND THE FOUR SEASONS during their time as the stars of THE JERSEY BOYS. For all of the groups mentioned above, the MIDTOWN MEN offered professional covers, but they were obviously covers. When they sang “Dawn (Go Away),” “Cry for Me,” a “Big Girls Don’t Cry/Sherry” mashup, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” “Oh, What a Night (December 1963),” and “Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby, Goodbye)” they rose to a whole other level. And a very good level it was, too.
The concert is about two hours long with one 20 minute intermission. Full bar, coffee, snacks, BPO and MIDTOWN MEN CDs available. The second performance is this Saturday night, April 1, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. at Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle, Buffalo, NY 14201. www.bpo.org (1-716-885-5000)
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (e.g. you are the parent of someone who is performing), give this concert a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the performance is pretty far off base, or the music itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to hear live music, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good music making. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the performance and the music are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!