Nic Doodson got used to explaining his day job.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I spent 17 of those 20 years explaining what a capella is,” Doodson said. But in the last few years, the niche performance style has gone mainstream with movies like “Pitch Perfect” and groups like Pentatonix.
Riding that wave, with years of expertise and a passion for the art form, Doodson has created “Gobsmacked!” one of the most popular a capella and beatboxing shows on tour. The production is heading to Proctors Theater on Friday.
It’s an intense show, weaving in stories both funny and dramatic, through traditional a capella songs, street-corner harmonies and multi-track live looping. A looming wall of speakers with lights provides a light show and backdrop for the performers, for what is otherwise a propless show.
“It’s one of the most human forms of music,” Doodson said.
Although he lived in London over the past two decades, Doodson first discovered a capella when he was going to high school in New Jersey. When went on to university in London, he discovered that there wasn’t really an a capella group or music scene. So he started one called The Magnets.
“During my senior year, the group got signed on to a record label. What started out as a college hobby became a career,” Doodson said.
He toured with the group for years, performing all over the world. But in 2014, he came up with the idea for an a cappella/beatboxing show with a story. In 2015, that idea turned into “Gobsmacked!” Since then, the show has been met with praise in London’s West End, Hong Kong and Edinburgh.
“Right now, we’ve got the best cast we’ve ever had,” Doodson said.
Marcus Collins, a finalist on the United Kingdom’s X-Factor, is a recent addition to the crew and has added incredible depth to the show. Ball-Zee (or Patrick Hirst), who has been with the show from its first iteration, is the leading beatboxer in the United Kingdom and is the world team beatbox champion.
Although the songs tend to change with every iteration of the cast, for their show at Proctors, they’ll be incorporating music from the pop stars from the 1960s to today.
“Whenever I’ve introduced people to a capella, people always have a positive reaction,” Doodson said. However, when he’s introduced people to jazz, reactions go either way, Doodson said.
There’s something incredibly powerful about the way the singers harmonize that draws people into the genre. During past performances, some audience members have doubted that the show is comprised only of the singers’ voices, especially when it comes to the beatboxing portion of the show. But Doodson insists there are no tricks, just talent.
“They’re not going to believe it,” Doodson said.
- David Bowie
- The Beatles
- The Black Eyed Peas
- Lady Gaga
- Ed Sheeran
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Proctors Theatre, 432 State St. Schenectady