The soulful Motown standards of Marvin Gaye put a smile on J. Robert “Bobby” Spencer’s face.
“I’ve been a huge Marvin Gaye fan as far back as I can remember,” the anchor of the Midtown Men said last week. “So when I get to do Marvin Gaye, it makes me happy.”
He also gets happy doing the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Rat Pack, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and Tina Turner — just about any 1960s artist whose music came along at a time when the country was convulsing in a tide of dramatic events that changed it for good.
“It was a time of change, of love, of peace, of harmony. It was a time of people’s lives where there was huge, volatile things happening in our country. I think that most Americans remember the ’60s as a monumental moment of their lives of change and experiencing that change through the great music of the 1960s,” he explained while on a three-hour train trip from his New York home to a concert with his Midtown Men best friends in Providence, R.I., last Friday. “It’s not just great music; it’s music of the 1960s that made a difference and made a change to our world.”
The Midtown Men, the original stars of the Tony-winning “Jersey Boys” Broadway musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, are making a living helping Americans recall the hopefulness that came out of that tumultuous period. The quartet — Spencer, Daniel Reichard, Christian Hoff and Michael Longoria — have been touring as the Midtown Men for four years after becoming best friends during their Broadway run.
“We just thought we can make a really good living at this. We’re best friends; people like us. They know our history. … I don’t know of any Broadway performer other than us who has gone out on the road and, in our fourth year, performed already more than 300 concerts-plus,” Spencer said. “No one is doing that. The fact that we get to do that … is really rewarding.”
When they take the Tucson Music Hall stage this weekend dressed in sharp Hugo Boss suits, don’t expect to see the four assume the roles of anyone but themselves.
“We present this show as Bobby, Daniel, Christian and Michael, and the only thing that is ‘Jersey Boys’ is the tagline,” said Spencer, a 45-year-old father of two. “Everything is all us.”
“We’re a nostalgic group of friends who are showing the baby boomers some songs from the years that they yearn for and they miss,” he added. “And we’re sharing it with their kids and their grandkids and this whole new generation. … Young people yearn for peace and harmony. The only music that’s exuding that is the 1960s. There’s not peace, love and harmony on the radio today with any of the top artists who are on. … This music of the ’60s is hopeful and optimistic, and it exudes positivity and change. It’s even more relevant … in the world that we’re living in today.”