The West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival is known for the upbeat, free entertainment brought to the streets of downtown Clarksburg. This year’s festival will run Sept. 2-4 and will feature local, regional, and national talent.
We have four shows coming from out of town; two have been here at the festival and two have not,” said Stephen Pishner, WVIHF board member and entertainment chair.
“Stayin’ Alive,” the world’s No. 2 tribute to the Bee Gees, will return to the festival, performing from the main stage 8:15 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2. The band delivers the songs and sights of Bee Gees blockbusters such as “Jive Talkin,’” “How Deep is Your Love,” “You Should be Dancing” and many others. The largest and most definitive production of its kind, the show offers big screen video clips and imagery. The band features Tony Mattina, Todd Sharman, Joseph Janisse, Smokin’ Joe Peeres, Chris Mullin and Tony Priolo.
“’Stayin’ Alive’ is from Canada and they have been here before and people really loved them. The nice thing about them is a portion of their show they actually sing live, but it is also synced with video of the Bee Gees on the jumbotron at the same time. There’s some high-tech, cutting-edge stuff going on.”
Featuring the rollicking roots music of Sicily and Southern Italy, Michela Musolino and Rosa Tatuata are scheduled to perform 3:50 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 and 11:15 a.m. Sept. 3 on the festival’s main stage. The show will feature beloved folk songs that were sung outdoors – whether fishing, washing clothes, or at celebratory festas. The cornerstone of their music, Musolino said, is that it’s interactive.
“Muolino has been here a few times and the interesting thing she brings to the table is the fact that she’s singing songs from hundreds of years ago in their original dialect; dialects of yesteryear, you could say,” Pishner said. “That’s difficult because dialects are a variation of language Italy had for years. They didn’t have televisions, telephones, etc. and each community had to take on how they thought the language would be pronounced.”
The artist is also bringing instruments of the time, adding a true Italian ingredient, and kicking the entertainment up a notch and brightening cultural authenticity, Pishner said.
Wanted DOA, America’s truly authentic Bon Jovi tribute show will take the main stage 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3. The show will feature Jovi tunes including “Runaway,” In and Out of Love,” “It’s My Life,” “Let it Rock,” and “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.”
The “Dead or Alive” tribute show to Bon Jovi is new to the festival.
“I’ve seen their performances online and they’re interesting. They cover the music of Bon Jovi very responsibly – how he would perform it,” Pishner said. “The music of Bon Jovi made it big. This group highlights this Italian American’s contribution to the music world.”
John Lloyd Young, who starred on Broadway and the motion picture, “Jersey Boys” as Frankie Vali will perform on the main stage 3:15 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4. Forty-seven years old, Young is from Sacramento, Calif. In 2006, he won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his role as Valli in “Jersey Boys.” He will perform Valli classics such as “Show and Tell,” “Since I Feel for You,” Can’t Take My Eyes off You,” and “Unchained Melody.”
John Lloyd Young – the award-winning artist who portrayed Franki Valli in “Jersey Boys” – is making his first WVIHF performance, but he’s been booked for years, Pishner said.
“We booked him in late-2019 to hold the date for the 2020 festival and we didn’t get to have it. Then he was going to do 2021, but we had to cancel it, too,” said Pishner. “He’s waited all this time and he finally gets to come to Clarksburg.”
And it will be a treat to festival goers.
“If you’ve watched ‘Jersey Boys,’ the movie, or saw the show on Broadway, we’ve picked this person up off that stage and screen and he’ll be on the main stage in Clarksburg. You can listen to him for free,” Pishner said.
The festival searches each season for fresh, new entertainment to keep it all exciting and new. But there are some entertainment staples that makes the event seem like home.”
“It’s important to have our locals back every year. It’s like going home for Christmas. People go into their homes for the holidays and expect certain people and certain things to be there,” Pishner said. “It’s part of the fabric of the tradition, another version of authenticity heightened. It also makes it recognizable. We’ve got to have these names because it’s the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival.”
Mary Frances Beto Smith has performed each year since the festival’s beginning. So has Pishner; either as part of the band AMICI or as a solo artist. As years went on, others joined that group of staple artists. Among them are Benjamin DeFazio, Brandon LeRoy and Marissa Bailey.
AMICI performed virtually from the Robinson Grand Performing Art Center for the 2020 festival experience. As a band member, Pishner said WVIHF 2022 is very special.
As always, staple band AMICI will deliver their infectious high energy Italian and American music to WVIHF 2022. AMICI will open the festival at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 3 and return to the main stage at 10 p.m. The band will also perform 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 and 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4.
Additional main stage entertainment is as follows:
Sept. 2: Accordion player Sam Manno (1:15 p.m.), the Bridgeport High School Jazz Ensemble (1:50 p.m.), Dominique Demus (2:45 p.m.), the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival Dancers (3 p.m.), Victoria Mazzie (4:45 p.m.), Mary Frances Beto Smith (5:10 p.m.) and Benjamin DeFazio (6:10 p.m.).
Sept. 3: WVIHF Dancers (12:10 p.m.), Sam Manno (1 p.m.), Chelsea Reyburn (1:15 p.m.), Mary Claire Palmer (2:20 p.m.), Mary Frances Beth Smith (5 p.m.), and Benjamin DeFazio (6:15 p.m.).
Sept. 4: Allegro Dance Company (11:45 a.m.), Franchesca Aloi (12:50 p.m.), and John Lloyd Young (3:15 p.m.)