They swing, they groove and they are thoroughly cool as they move through the music that comprises a fitting survey of many of the best-loved songs from the early ’60s.
The Midtown Men (TMM) kept the crowd hip and happy for close to two hours Saturday night as they performed with the Omaha Symphony at the Holland Performing Arts Center.
A bit of backstory to TMM’s backbeat: the foursome — Tony Award winner Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and Tony Award nominee J. Robert Spencer — founded the group in 2007 following a highly successful run on Broadway as the original cast members of “Jersey Boys.” Unlike their previous show, which focused on the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, this one features a “classic catalogue” from the first part of the 1960s, that is, from the time before the decade became synonymous with hippies, drugs and the Vietnam War. It’s music from the baby boomer generation’s Age of Innocence, and it includes selections from groups as wide-ranging stylistically as the Temptations and the Mamas and the Papas.
In the beginning, the Midtown Men were “Mad Men”-era slick in neat gray suits with skinny ties, but they segued into an even hipper Rat Pack iteration in jaunty magenta suits for the second half of the show.
Ernest Richardson conducted, keeping an upbeat, peppy tempo throughout, and he was clearly enjoying himself and the music.
The horns in particular added a nice touch of showbiz swagger, and overall, the orchestra (rounded out by guitarists and a drummer) made the act feel like one you might see at an upscale Vegas club.
From the start, TMM developed a relaxed patter and easy rapport with the audience and engaged them with anecdotes from their stint as Jersey Boys and from the road. At times, they focused a bit too much on the former, but this current show is giving them more than enough new material to share.
Each singer had a chance to shine. Tenor Reichard had a clear, strong voice that was beautiful for “Up on the Roof,” while baritone Hoff showcased a full-bodied mellow voice in “Time of the Season.”
Longoria used his tenor — and the falsetto he made famous on Broadway — to full effect, most frequently in Four Seasons’ songs such as “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
Spencer gave velvety credit to the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’” and lent it just the right amount of wistfulness.
Of course, the harmonies are what make the group, and the Motown medley proved this in spades, especially the rendition of “I Want You Back.”
On the down side, the Omaha Symphony’s tribute to “the Fabulous Fifties” that opened the second half of the program seemed out of sync with the rest of the songs and didn’t quite fit with the overall theme of the evening; it was just a little too long.
By the end of the show TMM had the audience members on their feet, and the group closed out the evening with an encore of “Bye Bye Baby” — a fitting way to end a nostalgic, memorable and thoroughly enjoyable stroll down memory lane.
The Midtown Men perform a second concert at the Holland Performing Arts Center at 2 p.m. today.
Tickets start at $15 and can be purchased by calling 402-345-0606 or online at www.ticketomaha.com.