The Doo Wop Project: Living In Harmony
SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — Whopping harmonies are making their way from Broadway to Shippensburg.
The Doo Wop Project will take those filling the seats at the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University on a journey through the evolution of doo-wop when its members perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18. Tickets cost $20 to $28.
Dominic Scaglione Jr., one of two Dominics who started the group — the other’s last name is Nolfi — said doo-wop influences are apparent in the work of modern artists such as Bruno Mars and Meghan Trainor.
“It really is the foreground of that type of music,” Scaglione said in a telephone interview from Naples, Fla., where the group was in the midst of a five-show stint.
He said member Dwayne Cooper coined the phrase “doo-wopify” to describe how the group harmonizes current tunes, bringing street-corner singing to a new generation.
“Our mission is to bring that back,” said Scaglione, a native of New Jersey who now lives in New York City.
While the guys all are current or former stars of Broadway’s “Jersey Boys” and “Motown: The Musical,” there’s no room for egos in their show.
“The good thing about The Doo Wop Project is the group is the star,” not one person, said Scaglione, 39. “We all tell our own story. We allow everyone to be themselves.”
Scaglione and Nolfi founded The Doo Wop Project four years ago when both were doing “Jersey Boys” on Broadway. Scaglione was portraying Frankie Valli — he also played the role in Las Vegas and Chicago companies — while Nolfi had the role of Tommy DeVito. They were doing doo-wop on the side and decided to put a group together.
The current lineup includes Scaglione and Nolfi, plus Matthew Scott, whose Broadway credits include roles in “An American In Paris,” “Sondheim On Sondheim,” “A Catered Affair,” “Jersey Boys” and “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.” Russell Fischer is a tenor with The Doo Wop Project who has a knack for falsetto and landed the role of Joe Pesci in the Broadway company of “Jersey Boys” on his 22nd birthday. He spent the next six years as an understudy for the role of Valli, which he performed many times.
Charl Brown recently completed a six-month stint on London’s West End reprising his role as Smokey Robinson in “Motown: The Musical,” for which he was nominated for a 2013 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical on Broadway. Cooper is known as “The Bass” of the group thanks to a voice that has been called a hybrid of Barry White and Sammy Davis Jr. Rounding out the singing troupe is Sonny Paladino, music director and arranger.
While there has been some turnover in the group, there has always been a desire to incorporate those with “energy before talent,” Scaglione said. He added that members must not be concerned about dominating the others, that they must be “nonego guys.”
“Everyone has their time to shine,” Scaglione said of his bandmates, all of whom are in their 30s.
A typical show by The Doo Wop Project is a musical journey showing how tunes by groups such as The Crests, The Belmonts and The Flamingos influenced the sounds of Robinson, The Temptations and the Four Seasons. Their tight harmonies also made an impact on entertainers like Michael Jackson, Jason Mraz and Amy Winehouse.
While the group’s name originally attracted an older audience, Scaglione said concerts are now drawing those ranging in age from 10 to 30. The guys do a lot of shows on the East Coast, but also have taken to stages in Montana, Arizona and California. They did 80 shows in 2016 and are expecting to do that many this year, he said.
For about 30 percent of its shows, The Doo Wop Project teams up with symphonies, pairings that were the brainchild of Jack Everly, the principal pops conductor of the Indianapolis and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras, Naples Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa.
Everly saw the group perform in New York City and approached the members afterward, saying, “I wanna build a show around you guys,” Scaglione recalled. The first Doo Wop Project/symphony show was in Indianapolis, and now the harmonic vocalists are hoping to do similar concerts all over the country.
“We didn’t realize it would be so successful,” said Scaglione, who added that each member of the group has a substitute so each can pursue other endeavors in television, film and music.
While their outside interests might vary, one thing the members share is the “keen ability to adapt to any situation ... and kill it,” Scaglione said, no matter the size of the venue.
It seems like Scaglione was meant for the stage.
He said his father — a police officer in East Orange, N.J. — would get home from work and sip a glass of wine while listening to radio personality Cousin Brucie.
Scaglione said doo-wop is his father’s “life force. We call him our concigliere,” Scaglione said, making a humorous reference to a high-ranking aide, often associated with the Mafia.
Scaglione dreamed of being an actor, looking up to powerhouses like James Dean and Marlon Brando. He also performed opera at a young age.
It was his voice that got him a record deal with Sony Records right after high school. From the time he was about 18 to 23, he toured with Destiny’s Child and Christina Aguilera.
Playing to crowds of 20,000, he experienced the glitzy, glamorous life and knew that’s not what he wanted in the long run.
Now that he’s more mature, Scaglione said he is focused on creating an art form.
“It’s about the work and the timing” now, said the man whose professional credits include performances on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and the Tony Awards.
Scaglione was in “Jersey Boys” for eight years, doing double duty with The Doo Wop Project for four of them. He stopped performing with “Boys” in October, and it closed in January on Broadway.
A highlight of his career came in 2010, when he was taking a breather in Los Angeles from “Jersey Boys.” He got a call from Valli’s creative partner, writer-keyboardist Bob Gaudio, asking if he would perform “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” at the ceremony during which Valli was being inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. He took a red-eye home to the Big Apple, filled in for the man playing Valli in “Jersey Boys” at the time, then sang the next day for the ceremony.
Other inductees of note that year were Danny DeVito, Jack Nicholson and Susan Sarandon. They all were there to heard Scaglione perform, as were Bruce Springsteen and Joe Pesci.
“They said I sounded just like Frankie,” Scaglione said of the megastars. “It was just an incredible experience.”
Now he finds himself in a position to be a role model for up-and-coming performers, something he doesn’t take lightly.
“When you do it (perform), you don’t think you’re somebody,” Scaglione said, adding that he was raised to be humble.
Inspiring a love for the arts in young people means having to live up to their expectations.
“You gotta step up,” Scaglione said.