The Soulless Midtown Men

The Midtown Men are four actors from the original cast of Jersey Boys, which they reminded the audience in the program and every time they talked. If you’re good, I’ve found, you don’t have to tell people you’re good; when that is the only thing you can talk about, then perhaps you aren’t. On the screen behind them as they sang were still photos of the MM rehearsing, quotes from rave reviews, the MM logo over and over, and the men on a bus featuring their ad. They also bragged about how many shows they had done. Their chatter was totally canned – so much so that when they mistakenly described “Build Me Up Buttercup” as a Marvin Gaye song, I took it not as ignorance but simply someone forgetting his lines. Even so, you’d think a show of ’60s rock music would overcome such quibbles. Unfortunately, all their performance did was ruin some good songs. The worst came first: the lead singer for the Four Seasons songs (who portrayed Joe Pesci, not Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys) sang in a hiccupy, nasal style that was, as they say, a bit “pitchy” except when in falsetto. All you could think was, how much better these songs were in the original version. The other songs were uniformly belted out in overly loud, harsh fashion, sacrificing the magic many of these songs contained. I say “many,” because the set list included some songs, notably “Happy Together,” that I didn’t need to hear again. This was ersatz rock, without an authentic note. I perhaps shouldn’t lay blame on the Granada, but I can’t imagine performers like the Midtown Men taking the stage of the Lobero – and coming a week after the disastrous Shen Yun “classic Chinese dance” I have to wonder who is the booker minding the store at this grand dame of Santa Barbara. (Full disclosure: we left halfway through the show.)

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