The Hit Men hit the stage running April 18 at Luhrs Center
SHIPPENSBURG >> Filmmaker Terrence Malick once said, "Nostalgia is a powerful feeling; it can drown out anything."
For one night, a local audience can do just that April 18, when The Hit Men take the stage at 8 p.m. at Shippensburg University's H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center.
Nostalgia seems to be making a comeback these days, with the popularity of musicals like "The Jersey Boys" and television shows like "Mad Men."
It's not hard to figure out why.
As the world grows increasingly more complex, audiences welcome the opportunity to declare a 'time out' on their worldly worries, to be wooed back to an era where life was much simpler.
The Hit Men are masters at transporting an audience back in time. "People over 50 walk in and leave at age 23," said band member and founder Lee Shapiro.
The group performs music from the 1960s, '70s and '80s, attracting both young and old fans.
"There's a reason for that," Shapiro said. "In many instances they grew up with the music being played in the home and they are attracted to timeless standards."
Shapiro and fellow band member, Gerry Polci, played a pivotal role during the Four Seasons' heyday, touring the world with Frankie Valli and helping the group transition from '60s doo-wop, to '70s pop, with hit songs like "Oh What a Night," and "Who Loves You."
Shapiro said he was inspired by the success of the film "The Jersey Boys" and approached Frankie Valli.
"Frankie Valli and I are very close. In fact, he launched my career and has always been very supportive. When I found out he was getting together with a new group of "Seasons," I suggested that our group do something 'Seasons-related,' so I asked him if he would mind," Shapiro said. And that's how The Hit Men were born. "We played at a local club and then at B.B. King's club in New York when our agent suggested that we take it to the next level," Shapiro explained. That was four-and-a-half years ago and the five-member group is still going strong.
The other three band members have impressive credentials as well. Jimmy Ryan has worked with stars like Carly Simon, Elton John, Jim Croce and Paul McCartney. Russ Velazquez worked with the Ramones, LL Cool J and Chicago, and Larry Gates worked with Bon Jovi, Carole King and Phoebe Snow. "We found the three best people who had a similar history in the entertainment business," said Shapiro.
The band not only plays the hits of an era spanning 30 years, but also gives the audience a glimpse of some of the behind-the-scenes stories that took place 'back in the day.' "Our performance is accompanied by video, visuals and backstage stories from the road. We're not a tribute band. We were there. We're conjuring up authentic nostalgia," said Shapiro."Our audience knows the words to every song and we think we've succeeded in creating a nostalgic environment so they can feel like they are 20 years old again, and they do," he added.
Leslie Folmer-Clinton, associate vice president for External Affairs and director of the Luhrs Center promises a good time. "I've seen them twice at booking conferences and you can't get any better than the original members of the group who also have a history of working with other famous folks like Franki Valli, Tommy James and the Shondells, and more. They play the songs that everybody knows from that era. I think folks will enjoy their music and the stories of their experiences playing with a variety of performers."
After the show, the band will host a "meet and greet" to sell and sign CDs.
As for the future, talks are in the works for a European tour, according to Shapiro. When asked how long the band intends to perform, Shapiro sums it up in one sentence. "We're going to do it until it ceases to be fun."
If you go
WHAT: The Hit Men
WHEN: 8 p.m. April 18
WHERE: H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center, Shippensburg University
COST: $27, $32, $37 and $42
TICKETS: 477-7469 or luhrscenter.com