The classic sound of doo-wop

The Doo Wop Project showcases the music of an influential era

slinn@thetribunenews.comMarch 7, 2013 

If you ask “Jersey Boys” star Jarrod Spector, playing doo-wop legend Frankie Valli on Broadway is “90 percent blessing and 10 percent curse.”

“You are playing a living legend,” explained Spector, who has appeared in multiple productions of the Tony Award-winning musical about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. “For those two and a half hours, you get to step into the shoes of somebody who did some amazing things in musical history.”

“You’re playing a rock star, so the reward is really unbelievable,” added Dominic Scaglione Jr., who has also played Valli in “Jersey Boys.” “Until somebody’s laced up those sneakers and gone out there, nobody knows what it (is like). It’s like a special fraternity.”

Both performers appear in The Doo Wop Project, which features current and former cast members of “Jersey Boys” performing the songs first popularized by rhythm-and-blues and rock ’n’ roll groups in the 1950s and ’60s.

Although not affiliated with “Jersey Boys,” the show shares its affection for that influential era.

The Doo Wop Project was born backstage at the August Wilson Theatre in New York City.

Scaglione and another “Jersey Boys” actor, Dominic Nolfi, approached Spector with the idea of doing a doo-wop show. They envisioned a top-notch crew capable of bringing the magic of romantic ballads and bouncy dance hits in five-part harmony to an entire nation.

“I wanted the best. It wanted us all to be able to take the mike and be equally astounding,” said Scaglione, who currently performs on tour with Spector, Dwayne Cooper, Rashad Naylor and Matthew Scott.

They are backed onstage by a five-piece band featuring bass, guitar, drums, piano and saxophone.

Launched just over a year ago in New York City, The Doo Wop Project gives the entire cast plenty of chances to share their stories and show off their talents.

Anecdotes are interspersed with old-school classics such as “Denise” by Randy & the Rainbows, “Little Bitty Pretty One” by Thurston Harris and “Since I Don’t Have You” by The Skyliners, as well as modern songs performed in a period style.

“We thought, ‘Man, why couldn’t we take songs that already exist and do them in an old style?’ ” Spector recalled, noting that doo-wop’s influence is evident in the music of Little Richard, The Beach Boys and Queen. “From doo-wop to Motown to R&B to hip-hop, you can definitely hear the origins of that music coming through to the songs you hear today.”

Spector and his fellow singers discover those influences in such songs as Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie,” Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” and Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.”

Spencer enjoys the reaction the group gets every time it performs “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper.

“I love watching each generation of audience members clicking and realizing what the song is,” he said.

“No matter what generation you are or what kind of music you listen to, we’re going to offer something you like,” he added.

According to Scaglione, audiences also respond to the rapport the performers share onstage.

“They really pick up on the fact that we really love each other and enjoy each other’s company,” he said.

Added Spector, “We do have a good rapport on stage. … It’s definitely a professionally put together show (but) we get to goof around a little bit.”

So far, the performers said, they’ve been blown away by the positive response to The Doo Wop Project.

“People go nuts for (the show),” Spector said. “We sort of caught lightning in a bottle.”

IF YOU GO

The Doo Wop Project
7 p.m. Friday
Clark Center for the Performing Arts, 487 Fair Oaks Ave., Arroyo Grande
$40 to $48
489-9444 or www.clarkcenter.org

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