‘Doo Wopified’: Broadway veterans pay tribute to the greats — on their terms

Santino Paladino, Charl Brown, John Michael Dias, Russell Fischer, Dwayne Cooper and Dominic Nolfi are The Doo Wop Project. They have three Arizona shows in December. (The Doo Wop Project/Submitted)

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

With credits like “Jersey Boys,” “Motown: The Musical” and “A Bronx Tale,” a group of charismatic Broadway actors wanted to fill their off time with a special project that utilized their talents. 

They founded the Doo Wop Project, which blends the classic sounds of acts like Frankie Valli and the Drifters with the 2000s’ Maroon 5 and Jason Mraz. In June, they were featured on PBS.

The Doo Wop Project will play three shows in Arizona in December — Tucson, Wickenburg and Chandler. 

“We love coming to Arizona,” singer Dominic Nolfi says.

“Everyone’s ready to party when we come to Arizona. They’re ready to have a good time, and we love that kind of energy. We’re high energy.

“We come from a Broadway background, so we’re used to performing a lot of shows in a week — sometimes eight in a week. 

“When we started this group, we were doing three a weekend, maybe four at the most. We’re just full of energy, and we leave people surprised. There is a lot more action and energy than people maybe expect.”

Back with its new holiday show, the Doo Wop Project traces the evolution of doo wop from the classic sound of five guys singing harmonies on a street corner to the biggest hits on the radio. 

With Nolfi, Charl Brown, Dwayne Cooper, Russell Fischer, John Michael Dias and  Sonny Paladino, the set will also feature nonholiday tunes. 

For a taste of the show, visit their website at: https://bit.ly/DooWopProjectHoliday.

“The holiday songs we do are vintage, with the exception of the ‘doo-wopified’ George Michael’s ‘Last Christmas,’” Nolfi says. “But we do the Drifters’ ‘White Christmas,’ which has a doo-woppy feel.”

As a child in San Francisco, singing came naturally to Nolfi. His mother choreographed musicals and is a dancer, so he grew up in rehearsal studios, he says. 

“When they needed kids to be in the show, my brother and I were always volunteered,” he adds with a laugh.

“We liked it. We ended up enjoying it. Both of us went on to do it professionally. My brother went on to a more lucrative field, but it’s in my blood these days.”

He went on to study youth acting at the acclaimed American Conservatory Theatre. He studied voice at the San Francisco Conservatory and attended the Boston Conservatory on scholarship, where he graduated with a BFA in theater. 

Upon graduation Dominic joined the European production of “Grease.” It was there that he met his future wife Sonia Iannetti; they have a daughter, Vivienne. 

Nolfi most recently performed on Broadway in Chazz Palminteri’s “A Bronx Tale – The Musical,” directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks. 

When the men formed the Doo Wop Project, it was just for fun. Nolfi says he’s pleasantly surprised at how it took off. 

“This was an idea where we said, ‘We’ll do this a couple times for fun,’” he explains. 

“Then people were like, ‘Can you do this here?’ So we got an agent who said we could go all over the country if we did it right. We started with 10 gigs, and three years later we’re doing 60. That’s a huge jump. Now, this year, we might break 70.”

He says it works out nicely.

“We researched other groups that do this,” says Nolfi, who is writing and helping develop Broadway shows. “We thought if they could do it, we could, too. We have a Broadway pedigree that can help sell us, too.”

The Doo Wop Project

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, December 15

WHERE: Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress Street

COST: Tickets start at $25

INFO: 520-547-3040, foxtucson.com

 

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 16

WHERE: Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Avenue, Chandler

COST: Tickets start at $32

INFO: 480-782-2680, chandlercenter.org

 

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 17

WHERE: Webb Center, 1090 S. Vulture Mine Road, Wickenburg

COST: Tickets start at $45

INFO: dewpac.org or thedoowopproject.com

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