No, it’s not the name of the latest Broadway musical.
Under the Streetlamp is a quartet of thirtysomething singer-actors who are making a big splash on the music-theater scene — including the taping of their Aug. 20 concert in Merrillville, Ind., for an upcoming PBS special. Consisting of founder-creator Michael Ingersoll, Michael Cunio, Shonn Wiley and Christopher Kale Jones, the vocal group shares a stage musical history: all have previously starred in “Jersey Boys,” here in Chicago and/or on national tours of the show. You can catch their Rat Pack-style act when they headline the Star Plaza for the aforementioned television special, or via their first DVD/CD release due later this year.
Ingersoll, who cut his acting chops in a slew of Chicago and regional theater productions, spoke to the Sun-Times about the musical group he launched nearly three years ago.
Question: What’s it like to star in your own PBS special?
Michael Ingersoll: Incredible. This is what we’ve been building up to for a few years now — a project that’s solely ours.
Q: You’ve had several incarnations of the show/group the last three years. How did you know this was THE team?
MI: A lot of it had to do with serendipity. Some of the guys I had performed with before had moved on to other projects. Michael [Cunio] and Shonn had been performing with me for about a year in “Jersey Boys.” And Christopher, I performed with him on the first national tour of that show for about a year. We knew we had chemistry with one another. We transitioned from being Broadway actors to being in a band. [Laughs] I guess we went from one incredibly unstable profession to another.
Q: What can folks expect from Under the Streetlamp?
MI: The show is what I would call the American Radio Songbook from the ’40s to the ’60s. But all the songs we do have been specially orchestrated for us, for our voices, for our harmonies. We’re doing songs by the Beatles, the Drifters, the Beach Boys, Etta James, Sam Cooke, Elvis and, of course, the Four Seasons. We take the music very seriously but not ourselves, so there’s this rich, lighthearted banter, very much in the same vein as the Rat Pack.
Q: How difficult is it to sing these classic doo-wop and rock four-part harmonies?
MI: Fortunately, when we met, our jobs centered around our ability to sing that type of music, and now we’ve really developed our own style of harmony. Our goal was to make music that if you heard us on the radio you’d go, “Oh, that’s Under the Streetlamp.”
Q: How do you downplay those who would say it’s just an offshoot of “Jersey Boys”?
MI: We’re very careful to let people know that, yes, we all met during “Jersey Boys,” but please don’t confuse what we’re doing now with that part of our lives. What we do now has nothing to do with “Jersey Boys.” This is not an extension of that. It’s a departure. We haven’t borrowed anything that doesn’t belong to us.