The Midtown Men bring sounds of the '60s to Heinz Hall
The songs of the '60s were golden oldies for his mother, but now they are Michael Longoria's ticket to success.
Longoria was one of the original cast members of the hit Broadway show “The Jersey Boys,” which won four Tony Awards and a Grammy telling the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Two years after the show opened, he and three other cast members were invited to perform at a party in New York City and saw their future. They formed their own highly successful act, now called The Midtown Men, with broadened repertoire.
The Midtown Men will headline Pittsburgh Symphony Pops concerts April 13 to 15 at Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall.
“That music of the '60s brought us together,” Longoria says. “We wanted to take on not only Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, which we kind of perfected on Broadway. We wanted to also take on their contemporaries — The Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, even the Ronettes. It became kind of a challenge for us to take that signature four-part harmony sound we cultivated doing the Four Seasons and put that on other artists of the same era.”
The Midtown Men don't use an arranger.
“When we take up a song, one of us will take the lead and the other three naturally create harmonies. Then we debate it,” he explains. “Eventually, we created a language the four of us understand. Now when we take up a song, we all really know where to go.”
Longoria grew up in Hollywood, learning mariachi Mexican folk music and the oldies singing them with his mother. After singing in public, he knew he was drawn to the performing arts, but found himself attracted not to his hometown but to New York City and Broadway.
“When I was home watching TV, I saw musicals and thought I could see myself in it,” he says. “Oh wow. Guy can dance like this. You could tell a story and sing a song telling it. It was a big discovery for me, one of those ancient things I never knew existed and were gifted to me through the television screen.”
Longoria played Baby John in his high school's production of “West Side Story.” Just a few years later, he made his professional debut performing the same role at La Scala in Milan, Italy — the first American musical to be presented at Italy's premiere opera house.
“It was the summer between my fresh and sophomore years in college (at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University), so it was a real special moment,” he says. “It was great to work with all those great Broadway people. I learned a lot. It was hard keeping up with strong Broadway dancers, but it was a good start to my career.”
Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.