Rock ‘n’ Roll Redemption – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Waterbury’s Seven Angels Theatre is unveiling the legend of a rock ’n’ roll star in song and story: Dion DiMucci of the Belmonts. Until Sunday, June 17, the curtain is pulled back for a peek into his fascinating climb into history, warts and demons and all. This musical boy from the Bronx was sure he knew what was best for himself and for his career and he was resistant to listening to anyone else’s advice or direction. Dion’s tale is one of faith, talent, persistence, missteps and, ultimately, triumph.

Early on in his quest for fame, Dion made a singular decision that was to change and haunt him for the rest of his life. He changed his mind at the last moment and didn’t take a seat on the ill fated plane that carried Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper to their death in a snow storm. They had all been performing in a concert and Dion decided to take the bus instead of flying. For the rest of his life, he questioned why his life had been spared.

Never fear, Dion’s story includes appearances by The Big Bopper (James Donohue), Buddy Holly (Rob Girardin) and Ritchie Valens (Edward La Cardo) on that memorable night. We also meet his back-up singers in the Belmonts (Harry McEnery V, Clint Carter and Nate Rocke) who help him forge ahead musically, until he determined he wanted to go it alone. Also looming large in the background was his father Pat (JP Sarro) who felt he knew what was best for his son and was not afraid to voice his views, while his mom (Marilyn Matarrese) was quick to be supportive.

Early on two record company brothers Bob and Gene Schwartz (John Little and Joel Robertson) were happy to steer Dion in the directions they deemed advantageous although he resisted their suggestions in favor of his own concepts. As Dion battled with his personal demon, heroin, he was helped from two sources, the church in the form of Father Perricone (Tom Chute) and his love interest Susan (Anna Laurie Strider) who has since become his wife of over five decades.

All along the way, Dion’s music pushed him forward and upward with such tunes as “The Wanderer,” “Runaround Sue,” “Teenager in Love” and “I Wonder Why.” Matthew Dailey’s Dion is wonderful as the honest and straight forward Italian-American kid who sang on the street corners and worked his way up to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, always doing it his way. He was fortunate to have an internal voice acting as a guardian angel who encouraged him to make the best choices, Johnny (Jason Ostrowski). Seminar De Laurentis directs this tribute to the icons of the 1950’s and 1960’s with enthusiasm and energy, with musical staging by Janine Molinari and musical direction by Brent C. Mauldin.

For tickets ($45-60), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangelstheatre.org. Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Let Dion DiMucci reveal his heart and soul and everything that drove him to become a rock and roll legend who was true to his heritage and to his dreams.

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