A Bronx Tale – Now on Broadway

Chazz Palminteri

Obert DeNiro, photo by Brigitte Lacombe

In the midst of so many existing productions being turned into Broadway plays, it was an intriguing journey taken by A Bronx Tale.

Chazz Palminteri started the ball rolling, with his one man show Off Broadway in 1989. It caught Robert DeNiro’s eye, who encouraged Palminteri to develop a screenplay. The two co-starred in the well-received 1993 film, which marked DeNiro’s directorial debut. In a nice turn from the often tortured roles DeNiro played, he played the straight arrow father of the story’s central figure.

Now the story has been turned into a full blown Broadway musical, with pretty decent results once you reach the second act.

Palminteri wrote the book, with music by Alan Menken. The latter brings his skills honed by Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Alladin, among many others. The musical is directed by DeNiro and Jerry (Hello Dolly, Guys and Dolls) Zaks.

The lyrics by Glenn (Tangled, School of Rock) Slater do a pretty good job of moving the plot forward, but most of the first act is exposition. Many of the characters are telling each other what they probably already know, but it lays the foundation for the second act when most of the conflicts arise.

Nick Cordero as “Sonny,” Hudson Loverro as “Young Calogero,” (center), and the cast of A Bronx Tale
Photo © Joan Marcus 2017

Adam Kaplan as “Calogero” Photo © Joan Marcus 2017

The story tracks, relatively faithfully to the earlier productions, the tale of a young Cologero (Palminteri‘s given name, don’t you know) who witnesses a crime from his brownstone stoop. When given the opportunity to finger Sonny, the local hood and kingpin, the youngster decides not to.
Christened “C” by the imposing Sonny, our hero begins to see the disparity between his father’s job driving a bus and the neon glamour of Sonny’s shady world. Act One builds necessary tension before the break. Sonny delivers his autobiographical “Nicky Machiavelli” in a tempo similar to the modulation which makes “Mack The Knife” so compelling.

Rory Max Kaplan, Keith White, Dominic Nolfi, Hudson Loverro as “Young Calogero,” and Cary Tedder
Photo © Joan Marcus 2017

The Cast of A Bronx Tale Photo © Joan Marcus 2017

Some of the characters slide past because the line of stereotype, but as the second act swings into gear, the plot is in place for confrontations and the necessary character arc of C’s changes.

The plot cross-cuts between 1960 and 1968. Although much of the music revolves around the indigenous four part male harmony structure of street corner serenaders, there are various deviations, which provide some needed variety to the score.

The scenic design by Beowulf Boritt is very clever, evoking the stoops and balconies of the neighborhood. An extremely clever lighting trick was used by Howell Binkley while introducing each of Sonny’s gang: the actor would freeze, a flashbulb would pop, the actor would turn 90 degrees left and the flashbulb would pop again. It was clear that C was falling into a crew of low-level gangsters.

Adam Kaplan plays C with aplomb, balancing his West Side Story love affair, his devotion to his parents and his growing infatuation with Sonny. As the role played by Palminteri in the film, Sonny needs to be commanding yet insightful, and here Nick Cordero shines.

A Bronx Tale not only tells the story of a kid facing choices as he discovers the world around him, it is also an intriguing evolution of a small play becoming a film and returning to the stage as a full blown song and dance production.

 


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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