Larry Rivellese made the jump from The Villages to the big leagues on Wednesday and the opera singer with a passion for softball hit a home run.
Just ask Steve Harvey.
“This is the big leagues, baby; we are on national TV,” Harvey told Rivellese on the debut telecast of “Little Big Shots: Forever Young.” The show was filmed in April and broadcast Wednesday on NBC-TV. Rivellese, a 72-year old Village of Belvedere resident, was the opening act.
Rivellese, who worked as plumber for 40 years, sang an explosively emotional version of “Nessun Dorma.” The crowd in the Burbank, California television studio – including Larry’s girlfriend Betty Camporeale — gave him a standing ovation. They were chanting “Lair-ree, Lair-ree Lair-ree.”
Harvey was just as fired-up.
The host was standing and clapping as he walked over to Rivellese. “America, express some love for Larry,” Harvey said. Then he hugged Rivellese. “You did it, man,” the host said.
“Did I knock it out of the park?” Rivellese asked Harvey.
“Larry,” Harvey replied as the crowd kept clapping and cheering, “you knocked it out of the park.”
The network first heard about Rivellese last year, after a story and video of him appeared on Villages-News.com. Here is a video promo for the show, with a brief appearance by Rivellese:
On Wednesday, before he sang, the show presented a short film on Larry’s life in The Villages.
“It’s paradise,” Rivellese said on the video, which was filmed here this spring. “We’re like little kids in an amusement park.”
Rivellese was shown driving his golf cart, playing softball and even fixing his bathroom plumbing. “I was a plumber for 40 years. I gave up my overalls for shorts.”
Rivellese then told how he grew up in Long Island, New York. “I liked singing when I was a kid,” he said. “I’ve hidden my talent for many years. It’s amazing I can do it at this stage of my life.”
“I am so excited to be on this show. I think a lot of people’s hearing aids are going to pop.”
Harvey introduced Betty Camporeale in the audience.
“She runs the concession stand at the ballpark,” said Rivellese, who plays Division 4 Recreational Softball and also Division 3 Neighborhood ball. “She makes a mean hamburger and hot dog parmesan.”
Harvey was impressed.
“As soon as you saw her, you said woooo,” Harvey told Larry. “I said woooo,” Rivellese replied and after she made the hamburger I said really woooo.”
Harvey asked Rivellese how he combined singing and plumbing.
“When I was in a crawl space and there were rats around, I sang and they ran away,” Larry shot back.
After he finished “Nessun Dorma,” the camera showed a close-up of Betty and she was beaming with pride.
And on this night, Larry Rivellese proved that no matter what your age — in The Villages, dreams can come true.
“For me, this is like winning the Super Bowl,” he said. “I can’t believe it.”
Harvey summed up Rivellese’s special night this way:
“We’ve got a man who waited a long time to sing for America. Now he’s 72 and this is his time.”