August 10, 2015

Catching Up with Dominic Nolfi: From Jersey to Detroit and Back on That Street Corner @DooWopProject

August 10th, 2015
The Doo Wop Project

The Doo Wop Project

By Pamela Singer, Jersey Boys Blog Special Correspondent

Friends, there are few things in this world more enduring and satisfying than great music, arguably one of our most powerful common denominators. Finding that perfect blend of harmony, soul, and story is a tricky business, one that has challenged the best and brightest throughout time. For Dominic Nolfi, his musical journey has explored the essence of numerous musical genres, from his early roots in jazz and standards growing up in San Francisco, through the falsetto harmonies of New Jersey’s Four Seasons, to the bigtop of Detroit’s Motown, and back to the street corner purity of Doo Wop’s a cappella voices. To say Dom is musically versatile is an understatement, kind of like saying Jersey Boys is, you know, ubiquitous…

I had the pleasure of catching up with Dom recently over lunch, a tough assignment, but someone had to do it! And yes, ladies, Dom is still as movie-star handsome as you remember. That said, this is an artist who clearly doesn’t need or want to coast by on good looks alone. His talent, commitment, passion for and knowledge of music history all speak for themselves. Listen in as Dom brings us up to date on what he’s been doing, talks about his musical influences, all things Doo Wop, and of course, The Doo Wop Project– his very own group, which will be doing two shows at 54 Below on August 17th.

For information and to purchase tickets, click HERE.

Pam Singer: Dom, it’s great to see you. It’s been a few years since we “officially” sat down to talk. How are you doing?

Dom Nolfi: Great to see you too, Pam. I’m doing well, thanks. It’s been a busy and exciting time in my life, with lots of projects in the works.

PS: Anything you can share with us?

DN: Sure. I’ve been involved in several readings and workshops, most recently one for “A Bronx Tale” by Chazz Palminteri. It’s a fantastic story with lots of potential.

PS: Not to rub salt in your fans’ wounds, but it’s been almost four years since your incredible seven- year ride with Jersey Boys ended. Seven years, starting in La Jolla, and seven different roles covered throughout your time with the show. That’s a feat that would impress even Tommy DeVito, whom you played for three years on Broadway!

DN: Yes, Jersey Boys was a special time in my life and a special experience. Happy that it’s still going strong. In addition to the thrill of doing the show, it was a launching pad for meeting new people, personally and professionally, and getting my name out there.

PS: You certainly did that well! Not long after leaving Jersey Boys, you were sought out to play Barney Ales, Berry Gordy’s Executive Vice President, in Motown The Musical on Broadway.

DN: That was another wonderful experience. I was proud and honored to be part of something that still resonates so deeply in American culture.

PS: When did the show close?

DN: It closed in January of this year. There’s currently a national tour of the show, and there’s talk of opening in London next year, and possibly coming back to Broadway.

PS: Can you tell us something you learned and took with you from working on these show shows?

DN: Certainly, I learned a lot about the close harmonies that were so musically intrinsic to each of these shows. Another important thing I learned was the dramaturgy, or history at the heart of these shows. We spent a day or more on each show just learning about the back stories. Combined with the music, this context made the experience so much more meaningful.

PS: Who were your musical influences growing up?

DN: My earliest musical influences were my family members. My mother choreographed musicals in San Francisco, where I grew up. She really introduced me to and instilled in me a love of musical theatre. I remember lots of singing at the dinner table! My paternal grandfather was a professional singer who performed in NYC. He sang jazz standards and opera, and often performed at The Onyx Club, a popular supper club in the 1940′s on West 52nd Street. Before he passed away, he got to see me on stage at the August Wilson on West 52nd Street, not too far from where the Onyx Club was. That’s a very special memory.

PS: Nice! Growing up, did singing or acting come first?

Dominic Scaglione, Jr. and Dominic Nolfi

Dominic Scaglione, Jr. and Dominic Nolfi

DN: Singing came first and seemed like a natural fit. I remember being recruited for my first singing role when I was eight, to play Randolph MacAfee in Bye Bye Birdie.(starts humming “Kids”)

PS: LOL, you and Paul Lynde! When did you start getting interested in acting?

DN: Also in high school. One of my first shows was Flowers For Algernon.

PS: Any other memorable early roles?

DN: Tony in West Side Story, Snoopy in You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown. I worked with the San Francisco Parks and Recreation program Young People’s Teen Musical Theatre Company, which was a great training ground.

PS: Talk about versatility! Let’s switch gears for a minute and chat about Doo Wop, and your group The Doo Wop Project. For our fans that might not be familiar with Doo Wop, could you talk a little about the genre itself?

DN: Sure. Doo Wop is an important musical genre that was developed in the 1940′s and 50′s in various communities (primarily African American) around the country, including New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. It’s a true American invention, like jazz and musical theatre. Many of the early groups gathered on street corners and honed their skills that way. Their music had an authentic “street sound” that was harmony driven, with R & B roots. In fact, Doo Wop really paved the way for what we know as R & B today. Think of Boyz to Men, Michael Jackson, Jason Mraz, or Bruno Mars to name a few, artists that really owe a musical debt to these Doo Wop groups. Initially, a capella sounds were the norm, as instruments were often too expensive or cumbersome to carry around. Phrases were then substituted for musical sounds. So “shang-a-lang” was the guitar, “doooo-wop-wop” the brass, “doomph doomph” the bass, and so on. Bill Kenny is thought of as the “Godfather of Doo Wop” for introducing the “top and bottom” format. What that means is there would be a high tenor singing the lead, and a bass singer reciting lyrics in the middle of the song. Again, many current artists follow that original format.

PS: Why do you think Doo Wop is a lesser known genre than, say, falsetto harmonies like The Four Seasons or Motown sounds?

DN: It may feel to some people that Doo Wop is just a bygone era and genre musically, but the impact it’s had on pop and rock and roll still resonates culturally today, in many ways, it laid a foundation for much of the music that followed, including the Four Seasons and Motown groups. Speaking of Motown, the Miracles were the first group signed by Berry Gordy to that label. Their hits “Shop Around” and “I Got a Job” had all the elements of Doo Wop in them. There are so many gems that came out of the Doo Wop era, songs that most people know, like the Tokens “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, “I Only Have Eyes For You” by the Flamingos and “Earth Angel” by the Penguins, which Jersey Boys fans should recognize from the show.

PS: I’m thinking of “Sixty Minute Man” by Billy Ward and His Dominoes. it was put to such great use in Bull Durham, with Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon dancing to it!

DN: Exactly. Doo Wop has influenced so much of rock and roll today, and is clearly still culturally relevant, present in movies and TV, in addition to music. One of the things we try and do through The Doo Wop Project is to preserve this great treasure trove of songs, and keep passing it on to current and future generations.

PS: Let’s talk about The Doo Wop Project. Can you talk a little about its genesis and what drew you to this kind of music?

DN: Dominic Scaglione and I became close friends while working together on Jersey Boys. We talked a lot backstage about singing together in a group. This was around 2011. He brought the idea of singing Doo Wop music to me. Dom’s Dad, Dominic Scaglione Senior, is a real connoisseur of this kind of music, so Dom grew up listening to Doo Wop with his family. We call Dom Sr. our “Consigliere,” as he knows almost everything there is to know about Doo Wop!

PS: Dom told me, “My brother and I would come into the house and find Dad at the kitchen table listening to Cousin Brucie. We’d sit down with him to listen, and he’d tell us everything about the groups and songs. I fell in love with Doo Wop, the harmonies and brotherhood. That’s what it’s all about.”

DN: It took me a while to come around to the idea of forming a Doo Wop group, but Dom was persistent. I did some research and thought about both the challenge and potential of singing these songs, and then embraced the idea full on.

PS: What kind of challenges and potential are you referring to?

DN: In terms of the potential, as I’ve mentioned, the catalogue of Doo Wop music is full of both known and unknown treasures. The idea of putting together a group is exciting, but not without challenges. Vocally, Doo Wop harmonies are very different than those in Four Seasons’ songs, or really any traditional 4 or 5 part melodies. The base vocal is an integral part of Doo Wop, and neither Dom nor I had that skill! We knew we’d have to find someone special who could sing that part. There aren’t a lot of guys our age around who were singing this type of music. We weren’t sure what kind of interest or response we’d get. That said, we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response we’ve gotten to the music and the group.

PS: And as Tommy told us, you have to get up before noon to start a group, right?! How did you and Dom go from talking about this to actually forming The Doo Wop Project?

DN: Dom and I started talking to some of the other Jersey Boys cast members to see if they were interested in coming on board. There was a resounding amount of interest in this kind of music, and we were able to put the group together pretty quickly. As the group evolved, we recruited a few guys from Motown the Musical as well. It’s really a standard feature of Doo Wop groups to have group members coming and going, so to speak, so we’re actually mirroring the norm. The Del Vikings were formed on an Air Force base, so guys in the group were often deployed, and new recruits subbed in! We’ve had some guys who were or are still doing steady gigs in Broadway shows, and still able to sing with us semi-regularly.

PS: Can you introduce us to your group members?

DN: Sure. In addition to Dom and me, we also have John Michael Dias and Russell Fischer, all from the Jersey Boys family. Dom, of course, is currently playing Frankie Valli on Broadway. John played Frankie on Broadway and in the National Tour. Russell played Joe Pesci on Broadway. Charl Brown and Dwayne Cooper were both in Motown The Musical. Charl was Tony nominated for playing Smokey Robinson, and Dwayne was a swing in the show. Dwayne is our base, and has this incredible deep voice that’s so intrinsic to Doo Wop. Five of us usually perform together at any given time. Sonny Palladino is our fantastic Musical Director. He’s worked all over Broadway, and has some authentic Doo Wop pedigree. Marty D’Amico, Sonny’s uncle, was a member of Johnny Maestro and The Brooklyn Bridge.

PS: That’s quite a lineup of talent, and very cool about Sonny[ "The Worst That Could Happen", is one of my favorite songs! How did you come up with the name "The Doo Wop Project"? No bowling alley signs, right?! DN: No, but almost as accidental. When we were showcasing early on, we were referred to as "The Untitled Doo Wop Project". We decided we liked the name, minus the "untitled" of course! PS: Too funny! How do you all decide on what songs to include in your shows?

DN: Everybody has input. We'll talk about it as a group, and then Sonny comes up with an arrangement for us. Our goal isn't to recreate the original groups' exact sounds, but rather to capture the essence of those great recordings. For instance, our version of the Orioles' "Crying in The Chapel" is different than when it was first done in the 1940's. We "jump parts" a lot, meaning we all get a chance to sing lead, with 4 harmonies behind us. As Scags says, The Doo Wop Project has been a 'passion project of ours, and it's been great to see it grow.'

PS: Do any of you write your own music?

DN: Dwayne does, and Sonny dabbles here and there.

PS: Favorite Doo Wop song?

DN: Oooh, that's hard. I'd have to say my favorite ballad is "I Only Have Eyes For You" by the Flamingos, and my favorite up tempo song is "Speedo", by the Cadillacs.

The Doo Wop Project at Yellow Sound Lab Studio

The Doo Wop Project at Yellow Sound Lab Studio

PS: You guys have been performing all over the Tri State area this spring and summer. I’d say you’re like cockroaches all over the map, but that line has already been put to good use! The Doo Wop Project has some really exciting things coming up in the next few months.

DN: That’s right. We’re excited to have our first gig at 54 Below on August 17th. 54 Below is one of NYC’s most preeminent supper clubs. They’ll be 2 shows, 7 and 9:30 pm. It’s going to be a great night, and we hope a lot of our fans and friends will join us there. In addition, we have a CD coming out soon!

PS: Fantastic! When will the CD be out?

DN: We don’t have an exact release date, but hopefully, very soon. We’ve been spending time in the studio putting it together. People can keep up with all the latest Doo Wop Project news on our website,, and also on our Facebook page.

PS: Dom, as always, it’s been a real pleasure talking with you. You’re an incredibly diverse talent, and always give so much of yourself to any show or project you’re involved with. I’m sure I speak for so many of your friends and fans in saying that we couldn’t be happier for or more proud of you!

DN: Thanks so much, Pam. I want to say a big thank you from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who has supported me over the years. Your support and kindness have meant and continue to mean so much. It’s been a great ride. I’m looking forward to continuing to share this incredible musical journey, and hope to see you soon!


  1. Excellent piece, Pam! Just like Dom, I too am a transplanted San Franciscan, but also worked in a law firm in CA with someone who is related to him (before I knew about Jersey Boys). Guess my old stomping grounds (SF Bay Area) produced “Jersey Boys” like JLY (Sacramento, CA), Christian Hoff (San Francisco, CA) and Dominic Nolfi (San Francisco, CA) who were destined to be successful! Hope to see them perform soon!

    Comment by Mike Magbaleta — August 11, 2015 @ 8:26 am

  2. Terrific job, Pam. It’s great to hear that the Doo Wop Project is going strong and that both Dominics are still involved. What an array of talent. The 54 Below show is going to be fabulous. I’m looking forward to their CD too. Getting an interview with you is a coup for them. You’ve become the Barbara Walters of the Jersey Boys world!

    Comment by Charles Alexander — August 11, 2015 @ 9:54 am

  3. What a wonderful article, Pam. It was great to catch up with Dom, whom I saw many times in “Jersey Boys” and three times in “Motown the Musical.” I sometimes wonder if Dom ran “interference” in having Valisia LeKae pull me onstage with her to sing “Reach Out and Touch”.

    I remember hearing a lot of these Doo Wop tunes growing up in the late 50′s and early 60′s; it’s great that the Doo Wop Project is giving life to them again, especially with a few people I already know. So eager to see them at 54 Below on August 17.

    Comment by Howard — August 11, 2015 @ 1:41 pm

  4. Thank you Mike and Howard!

    Comment by Pamela — August 11, 2015 @ 5:36 pm

  5. Pam…once again you outdid yourself…you captured my attention by the title alone. You truly have missed your calling!

    I have seen Dominic many, many times in Jersey Boys and Motown and he is everything you have written…he is absolutely wonderful. I look forward to catching him and the boys in the Doo Wop Project very soon.

    Comment by Carolyn Miller — August 11, 2015 @ 6:39 pm

  6. Thank you, Carolyn!

    Comment by Pamela — August 12, 2015 @ 9:08 pm

  7. Thank you, Charles! So looking forward to sharing the DWP show this Monday with you!

    Comment by Pamela — August 13, 2015 @ 5:14 pm

  8. Another great interview Pam…as we used to say in the old Jersey Neighborhood’s “Who’s better than you…No Bod Dee.”

    Comment by David — August 16, 2015 @ 8:16 am

  9. Aww, thanks, David! That means a lot!

    Comment by Pamela — August 18, 2015 @ 12:55 pm

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