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Review: ‘Brooklyn Doo Wop Explosion’ at Bristol Riverside Theatre

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Who put the bomp in the bomp be bomp bah bomp?
Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?

It these lyrics fill you with happiness in the remembrance of days gone by, then run to the Bristol Riverside Theatre’s Brooklyn Doo Wop Explosion. Wednesday afternoon’s opening was packed, and Joel in the box office says that while seats are available, they are going fast.

The Casinos: Peter Chacona Jr. (front), Kenny Schydecker, Peter Chacona Sr., Zeke Suarez, George Santiago

The Casinos: Peter Chacona Jr. (front), Kenny Schydecker, Peter Chacona Sr., Zeke Suarez, and George Santiago.

The two groups presented, The Manhattan Skyline and The Casinos, were wonderful, but the greatest joy came in observing the audience. Each song was greeted with beaming smiles, and many sang along quietly, remembering all of the foolish lyrics. “Do you remember The Moonglows? The Chimes?” brought shouts of recognition for even obscure songs. When the sexy singer Tom Jones was mentioned, a huge squeal rang out through the house.

Yes, this is an oldies show. The artists and the entire audience (yours truly included) could remember the songs when they were first hit the airwaves. The performers jokingly admitted this with cracks such as: “I hope I remember the lyrics” or “Just because I have gray hair doesn’t mean I’m old. I dye my hair gray to fit in with everybody else.” And when it was noticed that the opening performance was at 2 PM: “This is the early bird special.”

These groups are part of a continuing concert series for Bristol Riverside. Sandwiched between the just closed Driving Miss Daisy and the soon-to-open Jesus Christ Superstar, these touring events keep the seats filled. They run for five nights only.

The Casinos (Zeke Suarez, George Santiago, Kenny Schydecker, Peter Chacona Sr. and Peter Chacona Jr.) demonstrate the vocal harmonies that make Doo Wop what it is (or was). These harmonies are difficult to sing, but musical director Pete Gamby keeps them smooth as satin. Highlights were the a cappella and softer numbers such as “Oh Lord” and “Unchained Melody.”

The Manhattan Skyline: Bobby Petrone, Tony Danno, Jimmy Russo, Catherine Santaniello, Alfredo Rios Jr.

The Manhattan Skyline: Bobby Petrone, Tony Danno, Jimmy Russo, Catherine Santaniello, and Alfredo Rios Jr.

The main attraction was The Manhattan Skyline, a New York based ensemble with a wide range of pop styles. Jimmy Russo raised the roof with “Cara Mia” and found the same ecstatic response that this patron remembers when he saw Jay and the Americans in concert many years ago. Catherine Santaniello powerfully channels Keely Smith, Dusty Springfield, Ronnie Spector and others. When she sings her own number “Too Young,” she really sounds like a tormented teen. The group, which includes a good deal of comedy in between the numbers, is completed by founder/arranger Tony Danno, Alfredo Rios Jr. and musical director/keyboardist Bobby Petrone. They include a well-blended back-up band and an excellent sound system.

One quibble: The Casinos had obviously borrowed The Manhattan Skyline’s band and sound system, and the mixture was a little rocky at the first performance, although things will surely be smoothed out by the time you read this.

Young people who frequently declaim that the pop music of today is the best should remember: The music you loved when you were 10-21 years of age will be your adored music for the rest of your life!

Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with an intermission.

Brooklyn Doo Wop Explosion at Bristol Riverside Theatre

Brooklyn Doo Wop Explosion plays through Sunday, February 19, 2017 at Bristol Riverside Theatre – 120 Radcliffe Street, in Bristol, PA. For tickets, call the box office at (215) 785-0100, or purchase them online.

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