Doo Wop-ified!

If I had the money I would definitely become a subscriber to the NAC Orchestra’s Pops series.  Unfortunately, I only have the budget for an English Theatre subscription at the moment, so for now I only see the odd Pops show every now and again.  Overall, the Pops series tends to focus on “pop”pular music and “pop” culture, so I have seen shows with themes ranging from the music of John Williams, to the music of the 80s, to the music of Star Wars, and a whole lot more.  “The Doo Wop Project” is definitely something that looked appealing to me, but I wasn’t necessarily rushing to buy a ticket as it was not something I would normally go to see in the Pops series.  Luckily for me, my sister bought a ticket – but she is currently in South Korea due to her job with the Canadian Paralympic Committee, so I got to go in her place.

(Sorry Sis, you would have enjoyed this one.)

doowop

The Pops shows are almost always led by the phenomenally talented Jack Everly.  He is not only a wonderful conductor, but sometimes takes on the role of MC as well.  And although these shows tend to have other performance elements like choirs, singers, and even circus performers, the main focus is usually the NAC Orchestra.  This show, however, revolved solely around The Doo Wop Project.

The beginning of the show was a little rough as it felt as if The Doo Wop Project and the NAC Orchestra were competing against one another.  The various layers of music didn’t quite work cohesively, at times it was difficult to hear the orchestra and their presence seemed unnecessary, and then I began to get frustrated when I realized I was having a hard time hearing the words the singers were singing.  I was not the only one who noticed this – one of the members of The Doo Wop Project kept changing his grip on his microphone, casting worried glances, and subtly trying to signal someone offstage.  There were technical issues.  Luckily, these issues were mostly resolved before the start of intermission, and when we returned from intermission everything was perfect.  The orchestral accompaniment perfectly complimented the performance of the singers, and vise versa.  That being said, even when there were technical issues, the performers and musicians were so good that the show was still very enjoyable.

So what is the Doo Wop Project? Led by music director Sonny Paladino (who played the piano during the performance), five talented actors sing and experiment with Doo Wop: Dominic Nolfi, Charl Brown, Russell Fischer, Dominic Scaglione Jr, and Dwayne Cooper.  These men all met while performing on Broadway in the shows Jersey Boys and Mowtown, and each of them had a love for the Doo Wop genre of music – they decided they wanted to keep this iconic style of music alive.  Throughout the show, they each shared their personal experiences that led them to Doo Wop and Broadway, and they also explained what makes their work a “project”.  Although they sing classic Doo Wop songs, they also “Doo Wop-ify” more modern songs.  Adele, Sam Smith, and Jason Mraz were among some of the artists they covered, but I think my favourites were the “Doo Wop-ified” covers of Maroon 5 songs.

And these songs couldn’t be performed by a better group.  Of course these men are all skilled (and in some cases, Tony nominated) Broadway performers, but they also looked and acted the part.  Between their outfits and their choreographed movements, they looked like they could have been plucked right out of the past from the heydays of Doo Wop.  Dwayne Cooper stole the show for me, though.  In fact, it sounded as if he was the audience favourite.  Not only did he have the deepest voice of the bunch, and the best Doo Wop look (complete with a perfectly coiffed afro), but he was hamming it up on stage (and in the audience!) for the entire show.

The Doo Wop Project has certainly done a remarkable job of keeping this fun music style alive, and I commend them on transforming a supposedly “old fashioned” art form into something that is enjoyable for all ages.  I hope they continue to experiment and to “Doo Wop-ify” other songs as I would love to see them again if ever they are back in Ottawa.

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