In its first-ever U.S. tour, Gobsmacked! doesn't have to spend as much time smacking gob.

Or is it gobbing smack?

Whichever, the fact remains: The acclaimed U.K.-spawned show — making its downstate debut Wednesday night in the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts — is having a much easier time of it stateside.

That, according to the man who created it and produces it.

"The great thing about America is that we're singing to an educated audience," says Nic Doodson in a trans-Atlantic call to GO! from his London base.

"A cappella isn't as popular around the world. So, say, in Hong Kong, we spend two-thirds of the show just working out what's going on. In America, you're already into it, thanks to 'Pitch Perfect' and Pentatonix ... and you're able to appreciate the artistry a lot quicker." 

At the same time, Doodson is quick to distance Gobsmacked! from such Yank a cappella mainstays as Straight No Chaser, Rockapella and the aforementioned Pentatonix.

"The principal difference is the fact that those groups perform concerts while Gobsmacked! is a show with characters instead of seven people standing on a stage singing as themselves."

The characters are more archetypal than individual, with generic names like The Chap, The Diva, The Engineer, The Man and The Woman.

The closest comparison Doodson says he can make is to suggest that Gobsmacked! does for a cappella what Stomp did for percussion and Tap Dogs did for tap dance.

"Our secret weapon is our beatboxer," says Doodson of the three-time U.K. champ known as Ball-Zee who endows Gobsmacked! with its distinct sonic attitude.

"That really does make a massive difference."

Ball-Zee, nee Patrick Hirst, is, in fact, the first person in history to win the U.K. Beatbox Championship three times in a row, per Doodson.

"Known for his powerful sharp sounds and precise technicality," according to the website, "Ball-Zee also provided the opening soundtrack to the BBC's coverage of the 2012 MotoGP World Championship round at Silverstone, effortlessly mixing hip-hop and dubstep beats with the revving ng of a 1000cc motorcycle engine."

"He is an absolute joy to work with, and he is what gives us our power and presence," says Doodson. "He's done every show we've ever done."

Doodson's creative vision for Gobsmacked! was realized as his own a cappella performing career was winding down with his own entry into middle age. ("Nobody wants to see a 45-year-old a cappella singer.")

"When I was 18, I went to the University College London," he says. There, he co-founded the school's first a cappella group, The Magnets, which was so good that it was signed to EMI Records and released its first album in 2001 to eventual world acclaim and "much to the consternation of my parents, since my university degree was in in physics."

Physics didn't stand a chance in the face of The Magnets' success, which included touring with the likes of Tom Jones, Lisa Stansfield and Spice Girl Geri Halliwell. (Though Doodson is retired from the group, he still produces and manages it.)

The Magnets' third album was titled "Gobsmacked," a term that would come into its own in Doodson's next a cappella endeavor, hatched in 2014 as he was easing out of The Magnets.

"What am I going to do with my life after having made this 20-year investment in singing a cappella around the world, which, when we began in 1998, wasn't the force in the world that it is today?"

Thus, his notion of giving the a cappella tradition its own Stomp or Tap Dogs.

"If I can harness the skills of a set designer and a director, I could have something special," Doodson recalls thinking. "As well as my retirement plan."

Less than four years later, he has both, with Gobsmacked! deep into its first U.S. tour, which began lats fall, after having conquered other nations around the world.

"The theatricality of it is what I like," says Doodson.

"I like to watch more theatrical dramatic productions. I find more interest in that concept of not being yourself and playing a character. That, for example, allows you to sing a love song more believably when you're playing a character."

To survive a hitch with Gobsmacked!, he adds, "you really have to be a great singer with stamina ... stamina is a big part of what we do. I've had people who've sung on West End stages tell me that this is harder than anything else they've ever done.

"That's because they are creating all the sounds themselves, and they don't get a break. They're singing the entire time, and if they're not singing, they're breathing. So this job really does demand phenomenal stamina and vocal technique."


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