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Under the Streetlamp coming to Westbury

Vocal group Under the Streetlamp plays in concert

Vocal group Under the Streetlamp plays in concert on June 27, 2012 at NYCB Theatre in Westbury Credit: Handout

The Jersey Boys are back. But not in the show of the same name. Or even in Jersey, which none of these four guys calls home anyway.

Under the Streetlamp, a vocal ensemble backed by a seven-piece orchestra, brings its first national tour to Westbury Wednesday night for a concert of retro sounds from their parents' -- and even their grandparents' -- youth.

Four guys in their 30s became pop-music archivists by accident. They got together in Chicago two years ago, after each had finished a national tour of Broadway's hit jukebox musical, "The Jersey Boys," about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Even the name -- Under the Streetlamp -- is a throwback. Their sound, rooted in doo-wop of the 1950s and early '60s, was "largely created in urban settings like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit," says Shonn Wiley, the jazz voice among the quartet. "People lived in small, tight quarters, and when it got hot in the summer, they'd congregate on the streets to play stickball or gather under a streetlamp to sing."

"We want to be stewards of this music," says Michael Cunio, Streetlamp's bluesy Motown/R&B specialist. So many of the tribute groups from that era feature one survivor, if any, among the originals. Often it may be someone who joined after the group's prime. "They've either died off or aren't performing anymore," says Cunio. "And besides, this is music that was written for young people. It should be played by young guys. That's our cue."

 

FOUR IN THE LEAD

With a quartet of lead singers, Under the Streetlamp can mix things up with a distinct sound from each. Christopher Kale Jones, who played the Valli role in Chicago for a year, is the balladeer, often falsetto, on such songs as "Since I Fell for You," a hit for Lenny Welch in 1963.

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Mark Ingersoll, who played Four Seasons bass singer Nick Massi opposite Jones, sings the Roy Orbison lead on Streetlamp's version of his 1964 hit "Pretty Woman."

"There's no sense of competition among us," says Ingersoll. "Whatever the song, we know instantly who should sing the lead on it."

On their eponymous debut album, the Rodgers-and-Hart classic "Blue Moon," repopularized by Elvis in 1956 and The Marcels in 1961, is credited to "Jones & the Boys." Ingersoll takes the lead on "Wonder Why," a 1958 Dion & the Belmonts classic; Wiley on "Sh-boom," a hit for The Chords in 1954; and Cunio on "Twist & Shout," a smash 1963 Beatles cover.

"Most of this music is from after the war and before the Kennedy assassination," says Cunio. "It's free of cynicism."

 

BABY BOOM FAVORITES

Streetlamp's first national exposure came from PBS pledge drives, where its concert recording, "Under the Streetlamp: Live!" has become a staple gift to pledgers in most major markets. The typical Under the Streetlamp audience tends toward the Baby Boom generation, says Ingersoll. But he adds that "Glee" -- the Fox TV series that features high schoolers singing retro hits -- "has made this music appealing to kids." Also, the group has expanded into the '80s with Billy Joel and Bob Seger songs.

But their roots remain in doo-wop and those hot summer nights under a streetlamp. "We don't want this music to go extinct," says Cunio. "It makes people happy."

 

Under the Streetlamp in concert

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Wednesday, NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd.

INFO 516-334-0800, livenation.com

ADMISSION $39.50-$49.50

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