THE WANDERER at the Paper Mill Playhouse-Musical Theater to Treasure

“I do this to be real.” By Dion in The Vagabond

Paper Mill Playhouse now presents the thrilling world premiere of The Vagabond. 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 Vagabond 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.

BWW Review: THE WANDERER at the Paper Mill Playhouse-Musical Theater to Treasure

Set in the Bronx between the years 1958 and 1968, these were transformative years for Dion. A tough neighborhood kid, he lives with his loving mother, Frances and controversial father, Pat. As a teenager, Dion became famous for his musical talents with his band, Dion and the Belmonts. He is also a passionate guitarist with a particular vision of his music. There are exciting times to come when Dion is invited to tour with Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens. But when the trip turns tragic, Dion experiences a downward spiral and his drug addiction threatens his future. With the support of family, friends, church and especially his girlfriend, Susan, there is great hope for Dion’s success on the horizon.

BWW Review: THE WANDERER at the Paper Mill Playhouse-Musical Theater to Treasure

The Vagabond has humorous and poignant scenes. Paper Mill Playhouse has assembled a cast perfectly suited to tell Dion’s story and celebrate his career with the well-crafted dialogue and impeccably performed musical numbers. Directing the cast is Mike Wartella like Dio; Christy Altomare like Susanna; Joey McIntyre as Johnny; Kingsley Leggings as Willie Green; Jasmine Rogers as Melody Green; Jeffrey Schecter as Bob Schwartz; Johnny Tammaro as Pat DiMucci; and Pretty Tribuzio like Frances DiMucci. The characteristics of the multi-talented ensemble cast Joe Barbara, Mackenzie Bell, Stephane Cerf, Jordan Dobson, Josh Dunn, Billy Finn, Nathalie Gallo, Miguel Jarquin MorelandWill Jewett, Michal Kolaczkowski, Jess LeProtoJanaye McAlpine, Katie PohlmannSydney Skye and Gabi Stapula.

BWW Review: THE WANDERER at the Paper Mill Playhouse-Musical Theater to Treasure

Whether you tap your foot to the beat or sit back and enjoy the beautiful verses, the score of The Vagabond with many hits de Dion is sure to appeal to many musical tastes. The first big number, “King of the New York Streets”, performed by the whole company, sets the stage for the spectacular production which includes a total of 29 songs. The score includes Dion’s “Only You”; Willie’s “Skip James’s Son”; “A Teenager in Love” by Susan; a medley of songs performed by Dion, Richie Valens, Big Bopper and Buddy Holly; “You Belong to Me” by Johnny; and “Abraham, Martin and John” by Dion. The show takes you from the streets of the Bronx to a televised American bandstand, a local St. Anthony’s Day church, Dion and Susan’s wedding, and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour show.

BWW Review: THE WANDERER at the Paper Mill Playhouse-Musical Theater to Treasure

The Orchestra, conducted by Sonny Paladino, brings the music to life. Instrumentalists include keyboards by Sonny Paladino and Robert Cookman; The Woods of John de Simini; Guitars by Kenny Brescia and Robert Cookman; Bass by Winston Roye; Drums/Percussion by Grand Braddock. The orchestra contractor is Steve Gelfand and the keyboard programming is by Snthlink LLC/Jim Harp.

The stages of The Wanderer have elaborate and impressive sets. The production team includes scenography by Beowulf Boritt; costume design by Sarah Laux; lighting design by Jake DeGroot; sound design by Tony Award winner Jean Chills; and hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe. Rick Sordelet and Christian Kelly-Sordelet are the combat directors; Steven Van Zandt is the music consultant; and Linda Wonder serves as production manager. Casting is provided by The Telsey Office, Patrick Goodwin, CSA.

Kudos to Production Art Director Mark S. Hoebee and General Manager Mike Stotts for bringing The Vagabond at Millburn Stage. It is destined to be a success. See it while you can now through April 24.

Tickets for The Vagabond starting at $36 and can be purchased by calling 973.376.4343, at paper mill playhouse Ticket office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online at All major credit cards accepted. Groups of 10 or more can get up to 40% off tickets and should call 973.376.4343. Students can order emergency $20 tickets by phone or in person at paper mill playhouse Ticket office on the day of the performance. Subscription packages are also available starting at just $114.

Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel

About Debra D. Johnson

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