Not everyone can afford to visit New York and see a great Broadway show. That’s okay. Former Jersey Boys lead Michael Longoria has created a revue you can enjoy anywhere.
It’s 10 a.m. on a Monday morning in the heart of Chelsea – a time and a place no self-respecting musician or journalist wants to be seen. And yet, there waits the silky-voiced tenor Michael Longoria, so neatly packed behind a restaurant table that it appears someone asked for their order of the diminutive Jersey Boy could be prepared to go.
Already a veteran of both Hairspray and Jersey Boys (in which he played the lead role of Frankie Valli), Longoria now plans to parlay his klieg-light personality and third-row balcony pipes into a solo career that deserves to stand on its own.
On this brisk late spring morning, he’s agreed to meet to discuss his first album as a stand-alone artist, an album of show tune standards he’s titled collectively Broadway Brick By Brick. “I was really drawn to do an album of Broadway tunes because I’d done Hairspray and Jersey Boys, and as much as I like ’60s music, it was songs from musicals that really speak to me. And I felt that had been missing from what people knew about me, which is a little ironic since it was practically the music that first grabbed my heart.”
Longoria says “practically” because it’s not the first music that earned him attention. No, Michael grew up in hispanic California, and could belt out a mariachi tune not too long after he learned to walk. As a child, he became a fixture – and a cuddly object of marvel – at Latino celebrations clad in his scale model Mariachi outfit of black, white and red costume. But once he discovered that people actually sang in English while watching West Side Story one Christmas while his family rolled their traditional tamale holiday meal, his whole reality shifted.
“The first song I learned was ‘Maria’ from that show, and it was such a revelation that I still sing it,” he explains. “And, as I was putting this record together, I really started to reflect on how these songs all had their own value and meaning in the shows they’re from, but for me they’ve taken on a different deeper and more personal meaning.”
What came of Longoria’s reflections on his path from a munchkin Mariachi to Broadway sensation was the notion that he could actually tell his story through the music that had the most resonance for him. That, essentially, is what Broadway Brick By Brick is about, he says.
“Each of these is a song along my journey,” says the singer, “and they’re like close friends, you know? They started to tell me why they belonged in this set. They each have a place in my life that’s a milestone. and in the times of my life when I was alone and struggling, some of these were pieces that gave me strength, and helped me get up and try again.”
In each of the songs, from “Being Alive” from Company to the Pippin evergreen “Corner of the Sky” and “Music in the Mirror” from A Chorus Line, Longoria says that he oftentimes imagines himself in the role of the singer performing the song – even if that song was not conceived with a male performer in mind.
“Sure, this album is an expression of me and all of the people who’ve supported me, not just in putting the music together, but in guiding and helping me this far,” says Longoria. And it hasn’t always been easy; not originally having enough scholarship money to come to NYU, not having my family’s support, and then the additional burden of coming out. My hope is that this album is also for a child like I was who didn’t have the kinds of friends who would understand and need a voice letting them know that it’s okay to try beyond what people consider to be your potential. You owe it to yourself to do that”
On June 23, Longoria and co-host Ashley Austin Morris will be headlining a 9 p.m.benefit show at Hardware (697 10th Ave. in NYC). For the $10 suggested donation, you’ll be serenaded by nearly two dozen of the Big Apple’s finest vocalists, including Diana DeGarmo and Constantine Maroulis in a benefit concert for “New Alternatives”, an organization that helps homeless LGBT youth (16-24) become self-sufficient and transition from their shelter system and into stable adult lives. Additional services include case management, education services, life skills training, community-building recreational opportunities for self-expression and support services for HIV+ youth. You can find out additional details here:
By bringing his career up to date through the reminiscence of Brick By Brick, launching NYC Pride 2016 and pitching in to both help out homeless gay youth (“who are often at risk in normal shelters because they’re gay – which is often the same reason they’ve had to leave home”), Longoria is tying up a lot of loose ends that have felt fragmented from years past:
“People say my story is compelling because it’s hard to believe it’s worked out,” he’ll say. “But I was inspired by people and music all along my journey. So if I can do the same, then it’s just that much more worthwhile to me.”
Last modified: January 17, 2018