A crowd of over 7000 music lovers fills the PNC Bank Arts Center amphitheater this sunny Tuesday, May 23, 2023 afternoon for a Sounds of the ’50s and ’60s performance presented by the Garden State Arts Foundation. Starring The Brooklyn Bridge, The Skyliners, Kid Kyle, and Vinnie Medugno, today’s show is the third in a series of free afternoon concerts for New Jersey seniors held at the PNC Bank Arts Center.
GSAF Vice President Ron Gravino takes the stage to thank this afternoon’s audience for coming out. He also thanks concert producer Al Simone, Live Nation Entertainment, the PNC Bank Arts Center production staff, GSAF executive director Cookie Santiago, and Bob O’Brien and the GSAF volunteers for their help in putting on today’s performance.
Gravino introduces emcee Vinnie Medugno, reminding the audience that Medugno can be heard every Saturday at 5pm and Sunday at 8pm on NYC’s 77 WABC-AM radio.
Accompanied by The Coda Band — Mary Beth Ryan-Mastropaolo on saxophone, Dennis DiBrizzi on keyboards, Joe DeAngelis on guitar, Paul Page on bass, and Pete Mastropaulo on drums — Medugno takes the stage singing Gene Pitney’s “Town Without Pity.”
Medugno dedicates his next song to a woman in the audience, Henrietta, in honor of the “66th anniversary of her 20th birthday.” Here, Medugno impresses as he sings Jay and the Americans’ “Cara Mia,” belting out a long note at the end to enthusiastic cheers and applause.
After explaining that this afternoon’s next performer has been singing doo-wop since he was eight years old, Medugno introduces Kid Kyle, 28, who takes the stage looking sharp in his sparkling green jacket accompanied by his trio of backup singers — Rahmel McDade, Dickie Harmon, and Bill Pron.
Three-part doo-wop harmonies support Kyle’s stylized vocal on The Velvets’ “Tonight Could Be the Night.” Concertgoers nod their heads in time to the music as Kyle cries “Tonight/Could be the night/To hear her say/‘Darling, I do.’”
Kid Kyle dances with saxophonist Mary Beth Ryan-Mastropaulo on Bobby Hendricks’ “Drip Drop” as she wails out a solo before soft background vocals round out Kyle’s arrangement of The Penguins’ “Earth Angel.”
When Kyle asks, “How many remember Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers?” concertgoers reply in the affirmative. Inviting everyone to sing along with him on Lymon’s “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” Kyle comes down into the audience to entertain the crowd on this breezy number.
Kyle follows up by singing with emotion on The Moonglows’ “Sincerely,” prior to concluding his set with Neil Sedaka’s “The Diary” which, with its dramatic slow ending, has music lovers in the audience applauding on their feet.
Medugno returns to the stage to introduce The Skyliners — Jim Gregorakis, Donna Groom, Eric Bruce, and John Sarkis — who get the crowd clapping along to an upbeat arrangement of the group’s 1960 hit, “Pennies from Heaven.”
As Sarkis sings, “Every time it rains, it rains/Pennies from heaven,” he’s supported by the group’s stylized background vocals as well as The Coda Band’s top notch instrumental accompaniment.
Fingers snap as Sarkis and Co. segue into the group’s 1959 hit, “This I Swear,” and Donna Groom impresses with her lead vocal on Dionne Warwick’s “I Say a Little Prayer for You.” “Shoo-be-doo-wop” backups ring out on 1959’s swinging “It Happened Today” before tight four-part harmonies support Sarkis’ lead on the 6/8 ballad “My Lonely Way.”
Eric Bruce sings “Tell me how long this rain will last” on the Skyliners’ interpretation of The Manhattan Transfer’s “Trickle Trickle” and the quartet concludes with “the song that started it all” — The Skyliners’ 1959 hit, “Since I Don’t Have You” — on which Sarkis and Co. croon, “I-I-I don’t have anything/Since I don’t have you.”
The crowd stands and cheers as the group takes a bow before exiting the stage.
During intermission, audience members comment on the afternoon’s performance thus far. Whereas Nancy from Scotch Plains remarks, “All of the entertainers were very talented!” Barbara from Chatham reveals, “I loved all of harmonies — I could understand every word.” Ted from Jackson recalls, “I’ve been coming to the Arts Center for at least 40 or 50 years, and I really like this kind of old time rock and roll,” and Harriet from Jackson acknowledges, “I know so many of these old songs. They bring so many memories for me.”
As Act II commences, Medugno returns to introduce The Brooklyn Bridge — keyboardist Marty D’Amico, lead vocalist Joe “Bean” Esposito, singer John Williams, drummer Lou Agiesta, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Rosica, guitarist Mike Ernst, and singer Joe Ruvio.
The group opens with Johnny Maestro and the Crests’ 1960 ballad, “Gee (But I’d Give the World),” where lead vocalist Joe “Bean” Esposito sings in his strong, clear voice, “Oh, oh, gee, but I’d give the world/If you’d say that you’d be my girl,” to avid cheers and applause.
Founding member Jimmy Rosica welcomes the crowd saying, “Thank you! In addition to our own songs, today we’ll be paying homage to our original lead singer, Johnny Maestro, by doing some of his songs with The Crests along with songs by Dion since some of our original band members sang with him as members of The Del-Satins.”
Following the upbeat rocker, “I’m Ready,” tight back-up vocals compliment Esposito’s lead on the Brooklyn Bridge ballad, “Blessed is the Rain.” The crowd reacts with avid applause and the group continues with “Welcome Me Love” where the singers clap and step as they sing to the rockin’ ‘60s beat.
The Brooklyn Bridge continues its homage to Johnny Maestro with a poignant performance of “My Prayer” where an arpeggiated accompaniment and full vocal harmonies underscore Joe Esposito’s rich lead vocal.
The singers step in time to the music as they perform The Crests’ “Step By Step,” prior to segueing into Johnny Maestro’s 1959 classic hit with The Crests, “Sixteen Candles.” On this number, music lovers in the house sing along with Esposito as he croons, “Sixteen candles make a lovely light/But not as bright as your eyes tonight” before he exclaims at the end, “New Jersey rocks, baby! Just beautiful!”
Following the Toni Wine-composed Brooklyn Bridge soft-rocker, “Your Husband, My Wife,” the group performs an a cappella version of “You Gave Me Peace of Mind” where four-part harmonies cry out on the song’s moving arrangement.
The crowd energetically responds to a medley of Dion hits including “Ruby Ruby,” “Runaround Sue,” and “The Wanderer” where audience members sing, clap, and dance at their seats. The energy continues with “My Juanita” which features intricate back-up vocals before the group segues into Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops” and Esposito sings with blue-eyed soul on this rockin’ rendition capped with an electric guitar solo.
A couple slow dances in the aisle to Esposito and Co.’s interpretation of The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody,” and The Brooklyn Bridge closes their portion of the show with their 1969 hit, “The Worst That Could Happen.”
On this classic number composed by Jimmy Webb, the arrangement builds as it crescendos into the famous “Wedding March” coda which leaves audience members cheering and applauding on their feet.
As concertgoers make their way out of the amphitheater, several comment on this afternoon’s performance. Remarks Anthony from Howell, “This was a great show! I liked Vinnie Medugno — he’s a young guy who’s just coming up — and The Skyliners and The Brooklyn Bridge were really good, too!”
Whereas Debbie from Howell and Fran from Jersey City both exclaim, “I loved this show!” Phyllis from Jackson insists, “All of the acts were terrific; I loved the variety — it was a very entertaining afternoon.” Arlene from Kearny concurs, noting, “All of this season’s shows were exceptional — the voices were so strong” and Tom from Kearny exclaims, “I enjoyed every one of them!”
Bob from West New York admits, “I like doo wop music and Kid Kyle is keeping it alive,” revealing, “I’ve known him since he was a kid. He started singing doo wop when he was only four or five years old because his family would play doo wop music for him on the radio.” Likewise, Diane from Midland Park acknowledges, “I’m a doo wop fan, so I liked this concert very much,” prior to pointing out, “Until today, I wasn’t familiar with Kid Kyle’s music, but his voice is tremendous — I’m gonna look him up!”
Whereas Kathy, a Brooklyn Bridge fan from Bergen County, remarks, “I think Joe ‘Bean’ Esposito did a wonderful job performing with The Brooklyn Bridge today. Many people don’t know that when he sings, he stands stage left instead of center stage because he says nobody could ever take the place of Johnny Maestro,” Barbara from Toms River sums up this afternoon’s performance by declaring, “The concerts they put on here are always terrific and today’s show was no exception — it was fabulous!”
For more information on Vinnie Medugno, go to vincentmedugno.com. To learn more about Kid Kyle, please click on kidkyle.net and for The Skyliners, go to theskyliners.org. To find out more about The Brooklyn Bridge, click on facebook/thebrooklynbridge. For info on future Garden State Arts Foundation concerts at the PNC Bank Arts Center — including Cousin Brucie presents Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, Tommy Roe, and the Soundtrack of Our Lives with Deborah Rennard and Al Sapienza on June 8 — please go to gsafoundation.org.
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