A Little Taste Of The Bronx
The national tour of A Bronx Tale spreads its message about respect, loyalty, love and family
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ACTOR/playwright Chazz Palminteri’s delightful musical A Bronx Tale is a personal, hefty slice of 1960s life in the Bronx, when teenage groups harmonized under the lampposts, and those in different neighborhoods were fiercely territorial and protective of those who were considered to be “our own.”
Palminteri, an Academy Award-nominee, turned his experiences into the semi-autobiographical show that’s running through March 24 at the Nederlander Theater. It highlights the critical choices a youngster makes that affects him, his family and eventually the life of a girl who, he says, “could be one of the great ones.”
The musical, which includes several cast members from the long-running Broadway production, is set in neighborhoods along Belmont Avenue, comprised mostly of Italians, and “in a different world” only a couple of bus stops away in areas on Webster Avenue, primarily inhabited by African Americans. Neither group is welcome in the other’s neighborhood, but Calogero (Joey Barreiro) and Jane (Brianna-Mari Bell) are courageous enough to boldly challenge the long-standing barriers in the name of love.
Love––different kinds of love––is evident throughout the production, right from the beginning when a 10-year-old Calogero (played by Frankie Leoni) witnesses a murder just outside his doorstep by the neighborhood mobster Sonny (Joe Barbara). Calogero, immobilized by fear after Sonny recognizes that he’s the only witness, is grabbed by his protective father, Lorenzo (Richard H. Blake) and removes his son from the scene. Eight years later, though, Calogero begins to idolize Sonny’s way of life and prefers his flashiness and style to his father’s regular grind as a bus driver. A heartbroken Lorenzo, trying to hold on to Calogero’s respect, constantly warns his son about the consequences associated with the choices people make in life, especially when there are other, more reliable and law-abiding avenues to succeed.
In A Bronx Tale, local mob boss Sonny (Joe Barbara) is joined by 10-year-old Calogero (Frankie Leoni) in the Chazz Palminteri semi-autobiography.
Jane (Brianna-Mari Bell) and 18-year-old Calogero (Joey Barreiro) try to establish a relationship despite the obstacles. Part of the show's energy (below) is represented by the numerous dance numbers.
Although Barreiro, as the older Calogero, wasn’t in the original Broadway cast, he delivers effective double duty as the lead actor and narrator, regularly stepping out of character to give the audience additional information about the story. Aside from Barreiro, the Chicago production also benefits from the talents of Barbara, Bell, Blake, Leoni and Michelle Aravena, all of whom worked in the Broadway production. Aravena is cast as Calogero’s mother, Rosina, and the Jeff Award-winner who resides in New York is a familiar face to Chicago theatergoers after starring in local productions such as West Side Story, Mamma Mia, Bye Bye Birdie and Jersey Boys.
A Bronx Tale: The Musical was preceded by the 1993 film A Bronx Tale, which starred Palminteri and two-time Academy Award-winner Robert De Niro, When the musical opened in 2016, De Niro teamed with four-time Tony Award-winner Jerry Zaks to direct the stage production. The magic of that combination is still evident as the national tour continues through August 4, telling a story with music by the legendary Oscar-, Grammy- and Tony Award-winner Alan Menken and Tony Award-nominee Glenn Slater. The show also spotlights the precision of Tony Award-nominee Sergio Trujillo’s choreography.
Since its debut, A Bronx Tale: The Musical has been characterized by its effervescence and the colorful characters who take the audience on a roller coaster ride from the dramatic to the comedic to real-life situations theatergoers might have experienced in their own lives. In the end, the show is about values, focusing on a loving father who’s trying to show his impressionable son the difference between right and wrong as he strives to direct Calogero along the proper path to manhood. Most of all, like any good father, he doesn’t want to see his son suffer the consequences of bad choices, particularly if the youngster never attempts to tap the depths of his own positive potential. As Lorenzo repeatedly tells Calogero, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”
For more information and tickets, go to www.broadwayinchicago.com.