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Review Roundup: THE WANDERER at Paper Mill Playhouse

The Broadway-bound musical stars Mike Wartella, Christy Altomare, Joey McIntyre and more.

Review Roundup: THE WANDERER at Paper Mill Playhouse

Paper Mill Playhouse's 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 features 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 features 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 Stapula.

Dion. One name set the standard of cool for a generation. The Wanderer is the riveting true story of a troubled Italian American kid from the Bronx's unlikely journey through fame as a teenage heartthrob 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 darker side of success threatened to bring it all crashing down. The Wanderer is a moving, no-holds-barred 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 incomparable era in American music.

Let's sew what the critics had to say...

Marina Kennedy, BroadwayWorld: Paper Mill Playhouse is now presenting the vibrant world premiere of The Wanderer. Based on the life and music of Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, Dion DiMucci, it features a stellar cast that performs an array of memorable and legendary songs. We attended opening night when the show received a rousing standing ovation. And for a good reason. The production is musical theatre at its best. Dion was even present on stage for the final curtain call. The Wanderer is expertly directed by Kenneth Ferrone and enjoys inspired choreography by Sarah O'Gleby with top-notch music supervision, arrangement, and orchestrations by Sonny Paladino. The book is by Charles Messina and the show is being produced in cooperation with Dion DiMucci.

Patrick Maley, NJ Advance Media: Is there a single soul in the whole wide world who doesn't love "Runaround Sue"? While the song is an unequivocal delight and a gleaming gem of American popular music, it often falls into that nondescript category of music called "Oldies," and does not immediately call to mind its performer. That 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 jukebox musical, an exact reproduction of history is not really the point. Songs don't necessarily appear in the same order that they did in real life. And I can't imagine that The Belmonts' sound came together as quickly as is depicted here, or that Dion left them behind with little more than a shrug, as he does in the show's second act. I'm sure some of these characters didn't even exist in real life, but are composites of various people, or just ways of moving the story along.

Adam F. Cohen, New Jersey Stage: Directed by Kenneth Ferrone the production has a zippy first act. The second is weighed down by the pitfalls of bio musicals -- demons and redemption. Sarah O'Gleby (Disney's Frozen) has some beautiful athletic, richly wrought movements for group numbers. But the night belongs to Wartella. Here he unleashes full throttle charm, bombast, intelligence, and rock and roll. He embodies Dion with ambition and passion for music beyond the times. It's a credible, full bodied award-winning, captivating performance that slays the book's banality. He enlivens the audience and gives pulsating life to a bio musical. His renditions of "Runaround Sue" and "The Wanderer" resonate from Paper Mill all the way 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 about 15 - 20 minutes could be trimmed. The choreography by Sarah O'Gleby is rigorous and fun and music direction, orchestrations, and arrangements by Sonny Paladino, is out of this world with the drummer at his best.

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