Story by Marissa Barnhart
One might wonder what Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, the Four Seasons, Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse have in common, but according to Dominic Nolfi, they are all huge inspirations to the five-man group the Doo Wop Project.
At 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the Amphitheater, the Doo Wop Project will take the stage to perform classic doo-wop songs such as “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Pretty Little Angel Eyes.” They will also sing modern songs, such as Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” with a doo-wop twist.
The group’s musical director, Sonny Paladino, plays a large role in reworking contemporary songs to fit the doo-wop style, Nolfi said.
“We sit down and talk about songs that are cross-generational,” Nolfi said. “It’s fun for us and for the audience.”
The idea for the group emerged after several of the members were working together on Jersey Boys four years ago. They began brainstorming after asking, “What were the [Four] Seasons listening to?” Nolfi said. They then looked to modern artists, such as Bruno Mars and Boys II Men, whose music is influenced by doo-wop.
Nolfi, Charl Brown, John Michael Dias, Dominic Scaglione Jr. and Dwayne Cooper make up the Doo Wop Project’s five-part harmony.
Each member of the group has numerous Broadway credits attached to his name, including Jersey Boys, Motown: The Musical and Hairspray.
Brown received a Tony Award nomination for his portrayal of Smokey Robinson in Motown.
While these musicals have clear stars of the show, the Doo Wop Project shares lead vocals and doesn’t have one main singer — something Nolfi said was important to the group. Though their setlist includes songs they’ve sung on the Great White Way, Nolfi said performing as the Doo Wop Project is different; he describes it as “harmony, partnership and fun.”
“The main thing about forming this group was so we could be in the driver’s seat and make all the calls creatively,” Nolfi said.
The group sings a number of songs, from the Four Seasons’ “Sherry” to Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” But one song Nolfi said the group is “daunted by and enjoys most” is “That’s My Desire,” which was made popular by Sammy Kaye in 1946.
“It’s the closest to street singing, which is how Doo Wop really started,” Nolfi said. “Singing a cappella always makes us fret, but it always goes well.”
After Saturday’s performance, the quintet will prepare for two upcoming tour dates and the release of their first CD, which can be reserved on their website, thedoowopproject.com.
For now, Nolfi and the group are excited for their first Chautauqua Institution performance.
“We hope people enjoy themselves,” Nelfi said. “We’re honored to be part of the festival.”