September 9, 2011

When Jersey Heart Met Philly Soul

September 9th, 2011

(Photo Credits: Photos 1-6: Pamela Singer; Photos 7-17: Peter James Zielinski–For full coverage of the event, click HERE)

By Pamela Singer, Jersey Boys Blog Special Correspondent

Here’s the music trivia question of the day, friends. What happens when the cast of Broadway’s Tony-Award-winning musical about one of rock and roll’s greatest groups ever, comes together to perform the hits of rock’s top-selling duo of all time? Short answer is: MAGIC. Long answer is: “The Hall and Oates Songbook: Presented by the Cast of Jersey Boys” on August 21st, at New York City’s The Living Room. And oh, what a night it was, a fantastic evening of great music, great performances, friends, family, fun, and oh yeah, a little booze, with proceeds benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids. For all of us of a certain (ahem) age and/or mindset, this was truly a night to make our dreams come true.

The evening was the brainchild of Taylor Sternberg and Miles Aubrey, two of the most talented and affable “Boys” on Broadway. Taylor, some kind of marketing genius, and Miles, a music aficionado and professional musician since age 12, began thinking about such an evening almost a year ago. As Tommy DeVito might say, “You experiment, you refine, you blend.” I had the pleasure of speaking with Taylor and Miles (Tommy wasn’t available!) before the show. Here are some excerpts from our lively conversation.

Pamela Singer: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, guys. I know how busy you’ve both been putting this show together. Can you talk a little about how it came about?

Miles Aubrey: Taylor had the initial idea to do a concert similar to the “Rock Like A Man” shows we used to do on tour. He had a connection to Daryl Hall, and we thought Hall and Oates music would be a great fit with the Jersey Boys cast.

Taylor Sternberg: I saw Daryl and John in concert last year, and was struck by how relevant their music still is. I started talking to {Jersey Boys castmate} Dominic Nolfi about the concert and said “We should do a mini concert with their music.” And Dom agreed. Then I went to Miles and asked if he would direct the music. The idea came together from that. We wanted to do something that separated us from all the other cabarets in the city, something that was about the music, but also about the experience itself. Once we booked the date and venue, things started falling into place naturally. My Dad, Scott Sternberg, is the producer for the syndicated TV and webshow “Live From Daryl’s House.”

PS: Which leads right to my next question. Were you all familiar with Hall and Oates songbook?

TS: “Rich Girl” was my audition song for Jersey Boys, so it’s always held a special place in my heart.

PS: Wow, talk about things coming full circle!

MA: I’ve been playing guitar in rock bands since I was 13, so I knew all of these great songs. Their music has really stood the test of time., from the 1970’s through now. For all of us in the cast, it’s first and foremost about the music.

TS: It’s incredible how layered Hall and Oates songs are.

PS: Can you explain what you mean by that?

TS: Sure. There’s just so much going on with the music, aside from the obvious. There are elements of Motown, rock, R and B, and soul running through all of it. If you listen to any of their songs once, you might not fully appreciate everything that’s going on underneath. These guys feel and exploit (in a good way) the music so well. It’s similar to what’s going on with Four Seasons music. There’s that soul and fire always happening. Bob Gaudio was a true genius in writing songs that you could really FEEL.

PS: Was it hard to get permission to use the music of Hall and Oates?

TS: No. It’s amazing how generous everyone was once they heard the proceeds were going to BC/EFA. Daryl and John gave us their blessing early on.

PS: How did you decide who would sing what song?

MA: Most people picked their own tunes, but I helped some singers find a good fit, which was easy with such a wonderful catalog of songs. Then we worked to find the right key and arrangement as well. Also, the harmonies in their songs are very similar to those found in the Four Seasons songs.

TS: Everyone’s personality naturally gravitated to a particular song. You always bring a part of yourselves to each song, both here and in Jersey Boys. With both, every song has a great, cathartic feel to it. It’s been a great vibe for all of us.

PS: I can really sense the passion and energy you brought to this project!

MA: It’s been a thrill, and really fun for us to get out there and spread our wings a bit.

TS: We’re hoping the audience has a great time too, and are reminded of where they were when they first heard Hall and Oates, just like in Jersey Boys with the Four Seasons.

PS: Any word from Hall and Oates themselves?

TS: I just got an email from Daryl (in Europe) wishing us a great night.

PS: Fabulous! You’ve got a roomful of people who are beyond excited for the show. All the best guys, and thanks for your time.

The Living Room is one of the Lower East Side’s most venerable nightclubs. Known for cultivating local talent, it was home to Norah Jones before she made it big. The bar area when you enter is small and dark, a great area for mingling before the show. What a thrill it was to chat with the cast before the show! Despite torrential rains, there was a great turnout. The downstairs lounge, seating around 50, feels intimate if a bit cramped. That said, it’s a perfect venue for cultivating a real connection between performers and audience.

Master of Ceremonies Taylor Sternberg started the evening off by warmly greeting the audience, then moving into an improvisational monologue and stand-up routine. He sings, he dances, he does comedy- the trifecta of entertainment! Who knew? Taylor pretty much had us at hello. This was going to be a great night, for sure. If anyone needed further proof of this cast’s range and talent, we got it in spades. Not only that, but two Frankies (Jarrod Spector and Dominic Scaglione, Jr.) for the price of one! Musical Director Miles Aubrey led a fabulous group of Jersey Boys musicians; Kevin Dow, Joe Alafonte, Kurt Bacher, and Louis Tucci. Miles was outstanding on his beautiful blue electric guitar, generously given to him by Taylor Guitars for the occasion.

First up to perform was the charismatic Dominic Nolfi, looking like a modern day Don Draper. Dom did a killer version of “Maneater,”really getting the crowd going. Peter Gregus, dapper in a plaid jacket, was delightful on “Say It Isn’t So.” Next up was Erik Bates, doing a rousing “Family Man,” one of the lesser known songs of Hall and Oates. Miles then took it down a few notches with a soulful “Sara Smile,” accompanying himself with a terrific extended guitar solo. The lovely Sara Schmidt rocked it out with “Private Eyes.” She jokingly told us first that she might forget a few lyrics, but aced it like a true Jersey girl. Dominic Scaglione, Jr. and John Edwards then amped up the sex appeal with the bewitching “She’s Gone.” When they sang “now I can see love’s taken her toll on me,” we felt it!

While the band took a short break, Taylor resumed his MC duties, auctioning off a poster of the event and cast picture for a cool $300, to a generous young lady named Alissa.

Dom Nolfi and Taylor started off the second set with the playful duet “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” Brad Bass then hit it out of the park with “ Rich Girl.” Jarrod gave us the flirtatious “Kiss On My List,” saying he was born the year this song came out {1981}! “One On One” by John Edwards was sensuous and lush. Finally, Taylor took it home, fittingly, with “You Make My Dreams.”

No one wanted this special evening to end, but alas, it was over too soon. It was wonderful to mingle again with the cast, congratulating everyone for a terrific night on behalf of an even greater cause. The great Frankie Valli once said “family is everything.” You got that right, Frankie. “The Hall and Oates Songbook: Presented by the Cast of Jersey Boys” was truly a family event: some Jersey Boys, some Hall and Oates, super music, friends, family, and all in The Living Room. We loved the blend.


  1. Pam: You made me feel like I was there!! I wish I had been!! Wonderful article. I know and love all those songs. I hope they do another gig soon.

    Comment by Linda — September 9, 2011 @ 10:39 am

  2. Well, Linda, I WAS there and Pamela captured the spirit of the evening beautifully. It was indeed one of my best cabaret experiences ever.

    Yes, it was a bit crowded, but great to mingle with the cast before the show. Loved meeting newcomers Brad Bass and John Edwards and seeing all the regulars once again. John Edwards even politely laughed when I asked him how Rielle Hunter was doing, and he must hear that a thousand times a day!!

    Taylor was hysterical as MC. The funniest part was during the auction when he gave all the bidders nicknames. Wondered how “Blondie” would respond when he asked if that was her natural hair color, but without missing a beat, she screamed “not a chance”!!

    The cast was polished and terrific. Pamela, I still don’t know about Dom Nolfi looking like Don Draper..maybe Don Knotts, but not Draper..(kidding, Dom!!!)

    All were spectacular, with some wonderful surprises. Peter Gregus…the kid’s a singer?? And a good singer!! And mild mannered Sara Schmidt the reincarnation of Ethel Merman belting out “Private Eyes”???…wonder how many shot glasses she broke!! Was also great seeing the two talented Frankies, Jarrod and Scags, out of character. Miles was indeed very talented on his special electric guitar and it was nice to hear him share a bit of his musical background!!

    Also wonderful to catch up with Jersey Boys friends Linda SooHoo, Dorian Chui, Pat and Anthony Palumbo and friend Joan, and of course yourself, Pamela. As you suggested, the venue was indeed intimate, so we couldn’t miss each other.

    Thanks again, Pamela, for a wonderful reliving of a great evening. Hope the “Boys” doing it again soon.

    Comment by Howard — September 9, 2011 @ 11:19 am

  3. Pam, you just keeping pumping ‘em out! Another fine piece of work to add to your collection and your resume! I especially loved the photos. It’s the next best thing to being there!

    Comment by Gary — September 9, 2011 @ 11:21 am

  4. Wonderful article and great pictures — especially the one of Miles, Taylor and that beautiful babe!

    Comment by Jana — September 9, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

  5. Pam, what a great interview and write up. The evening was truly MAGIC. It was so much fun to see the cast singing these great songs. Also to see so many JB friends there that night too.

    Thank goodness it was the week before the hurricane, that was good timing.

    I’m going to see Hall & Oates tomorrow night. As much as I love them and their music, it was truly special to see the cast of JB performing this songbook.

    Comment by Linda/Tiggerbelle — September 9, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

  6. It was raining inside and out, but I had a great time!

    Comment by Leanna — September 10, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

  7. Wonderful synopsis – it was definitely a great night! I was the one who won the auction. BC/EFA is an amazing organization, so I’m always happy to donate to them!

    Comment by Alissa — September 12, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

  8. Great job, Pam, as always. Your story shows how foolish I was to miss this show. But at least those who were too far away or too preoccupied to attend have your vivid recounting of this terrific event. Thanks, Charles

    Comment by Charles Alexander — September 13, 2011 @ 4:44 pm

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