The Paper Mill Playhouse world premiere of The Wanderer, the new Broadway-bound musical based on the life and music of Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Dion DiMucci, just celebrated its opening night.
The cast includes Mike Wartella (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Paper Mill’s Chasing Rainbows) as Dion, Christy Altomare (Anastasia) as Susan, Joey McIntyre (Waitress, New Kids on the Block) as Johnny, Kingsley Leggs (Broadway’s The Color Purple) as Willie Green, Jasmine Rogers (Becoming Nancy) as Melody Green, Jeffrey Schecter (Paper Mill’s On The Town) as Bob Schwartz, Johnny Tammaro (Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding) as Pat DiMucci and Joli Tribuzio (A Room of My Own) as Frances DiMucci. The ensemble cast includes Joe Barbara, Mackenzie Bell, Stephen Cerf, Jordan Dobson, Josh Dunn, Billy Finn, Natalie Gallo, Miguel Jarquin-Moreland, Will Jewett, Michal Kolaczkowski, Jess LeProtto, Janayé McAlpine, Katie Pohlman, Sydney Skye and Gabi. Stapule.
Dio. One name set the standard for cool for a generation. The Wanderer is the gripping true story of a troubled Italian-American kid from the Bronx, an unlikely journey through stardom as a teen idol to eventual Rock & Roll icon in intimate detail. The man Bruce Springsteen once called “the link between Frank Sinatra and Rock & Roll”, Dion’s music helped define a generation, but the dark side of success threatened to bring it all down. The Wanderer is a moving, boundless new musical about the glow of the spotlight, the shadow of addiction, and the triumph of the human spirit against all odds, set to the iconic sound of an unrivaled era of American music.
Let’s sew what the critics had to say…
Marina Kennedy, BroadwayWorld: Paper Mill Playhouse now presents the animated world premiere of The Wanderer. Based on the life and music of Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, Dion DiMucci, it features a stellar cast who perform an array of memorable and legendary songs. We attended on opening night when the show received an enthusiastic standing ovation. And for good reason. The production is musical theater at its finest. Dion was even present on stage for the final encore. The Wanderer is expertly directed by Kenneth Ferrone and boasts inspired choreography by Sarah O’Gleby with top-notch musical supervision, arrangements and orchestration by Sonny Paladino. The book is by Charles Messina and the show is produced in collaboration with Dion DiMucci.
Patrick Maley, NJ Advance Media: Is there a single soul in the whole world that doesn’t love “Runaround Sue”? While the song is an unequivocal delight and sparkling gem of American popular music, it often falls into that nondescript category of music called “Oldies” and doesn’t immediately evoke its performer. This singer, Dion, was a major figure in early rock n’ roll responsible for other classics like “A Teenager in Love” and “The Wanderer.” His work is monumental, but his name is less familiar than contemporaries like Buddy Holly, Elvis and Chuck Berry.
Jay Lustig, NJ Arts: As with any musical jukebox, an exact reproduction of history isn’t really the issue. The songs do not necessarily appear in the same order as in real life. And I can’t imagine the sound of the Belmonts coming together as quickly as depicted here, or Dion leaving them with little more than a shrug, as he does in the second act. from the Serie. I’m sure some of these characters didn’t even exist in real life, but are composites of various people, or just ways to advance the story.
Adam F. Cohen, New Jersey Stage: Directed by Kenneth Ferrone, the production has a fast-paced first act. The second is weighed down by the trappings of bio musicals – demons and redemption. Sarah O’Gleby (Disney’s Frozen) has beautiful, athletic, richly forged moves for the group numbers. But the night belongs to Wartella. Here he unleashes charm, bombast, smarts and full throttle rock and roll. He embodies Dion with ambition and passion for timeless music. It’s a believable, full-bodied, gripping performance that kills the book’s banality. He animates the public and brings thrilling life to an organic musical comedy. His renditions of “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer” resonate from Paper Mill to the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.
Suzanna Bowling, Times Square Chronicles: Directed by Emmy nominee Kenneth Ferrone, the show moves at a good pace, though around 15-20 minutes could be cut. Sarah O’Gleby’s choreography is rigorous and fun and Sonny Paladino’s musical direction, orchestrations and arrangements are out of this world with the drummer at his best.