BWW Review: A BRONX TALE: Standin' On The Corner
A Bronx Tale
Book by Chazz Palminteri, Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Glenn Sater, Based on the play by Chazz Palminteri, Music Supervision and Arrangements by Ron Melrose, Choreography by Serge Trujillo, Direction by Robert DeNiro and Jerry Zaks; Scenic Design, Beowulf Boritt; Costume Design, William Ivey Long; Lighting Design, Howell Binkley; Sound Design, Gareth Owen; Hair and Wig Design, Paul Huntley; Makeup Design, Anne Ford-Coates; Fight Coordinator, Robert Westley; Orchestrations, Doug Besterman; Music Direction, Brian P. Kennedy; Production Stage Manager, Kelsey Tippins
CAST: Joe Barbara, Richard H. Blake, Joey Barreiro, Michelle Aravena, Brianna-Marie Bell, Antonio Beverly, Frankie Leoni, Shane Pry, Mike Backes, Michael Barra, Sean Bell, Joshua Michael Burrage, Joey Calveri, Giovanni DiGabriele, Alex Dorf, John Gardiner, Peter Gregus, Haley Hannah, Kirk Lydell, Ashley McManus, Christopher Messina, Robert Pieranunzi, Brandi Porter, Kyli Rae, Paul Salvatoriello, Brittany Williams, Jason Williams
Performances through April 14 as part of the 2018-2019 Lexus Broadway In Boston Season at Citizens Bank Opera House, 539 Washington Street, Boston, MA; Box Office 800-982-2787 or www.BroadwayInBoston.com
The North American tour of A Bronx Tale doo-wops its way into the Citizens Bank Opera House through April 14th as part of the 2018-2019 Lexus Broadway In Boston Season. It is at once a nostalgic stroll down memory lane with an original rock 'n' roll score, a gritty depiction of urban turf wars, and a well-told story about loyalty, love, and family. Based on Chazz Palminteri's 1989 one-man Off-Broadway play that inspired a 1993 film, the musical reunites the author with his directors, Jerry Zaks and Robert DeNiro, and they are joined by composer Alan Menken, lyricist Glenn Sater, and choreographer Sergio Trujillo.
A Bronx Tale opened on Broadway on December 1, 2016, and played 700 performances before ending its run on August 5, 2018. The North American tour launched in October and features numerous cast members from the Broadway production, including principals Joe Barbara (Sonny), Richard H. Blake (Lorenzo), and Frankie Leoni (Young Calogero). In addition, the A-team of award-winning designers remains intact for the tour, including Beowulf Boritt (scenic), William Ivey Long (costume), Howell Binkley (lighting), and Gareth Owen (sound). Paul Huntley (hair & wig) and Anne Ford-Coates (makeup) add to the authenticity by capturing the look of the 1960s.
The story begins on the stoops of Belmont Avenue in the Bronx in 1960, where the evening soundtrack is provided by young men singing a cappella under a streetlamp and the cultural homogeneity of the neighborhood is taken for granted. Calogero (Joey Barreiro), our narrator and tour guide, is torn between his love and loyalty for his bus driver father, Lorenzo, and Sonny, the local mob boss who takes him under his wing and into his thrall. Throughout the arc of the story, which fast forwards to 1968, "C" (as he is nicknamed by Sonny) gets deeper into the world of the wise guys, while always feeling the tug of his home and family. Hanging around Sonny's bar and his circle is not the only detour C takes, as he also strays into the nearby Webster Avenue neighborhood to pursue a forbidden relationship with Jane (Brianna-Marie Bell, very good), an attractive African-American girl. The thread of racial animosity between the two camps is loosely woven through the plot, but no new ground is broken, nor are the relationships given much depth.The focus is on good vs. evil, as represented by Lorenzo's family values and Sonny's apparent lack of same, more than on the black vs. white dynamic.
Barreiro is an engaging performer who represents the internal tug of war his character feels. Leoni is a confident dynamo who exudes the thrills the boy feels when he becomes the mini-king of Belmont Avenue, simply by his association with Sonny. (Shane Pry plays Young Calogero at some performances.) Blake captures the solid, grounded character of the man who truly loves his son, while Barbara has the swagger and charisma that justify the boy's attraction to him. All three of the men nail their vocals, and convey some unexpected poignance in "These Streets" (Blake) and "One of the Great Ones" (Barbara).
The ensemble features triple threats who play members of Sonny's crew (John Gardiner, Mike Backes, Michael Barra, Robert Pieranunzi, and Paul Salvatoriello), C's crew (Sean Bell, Giovanni DiGabriele, and Alex Dorf), and Jane's friends (Jason Williams, Ashley McManus, Antonio Beverly, and Brandi Porter). C's mom Rosina doesn't have much to do, but Kyli Rae (playing the role this night) makes the most of her second act song ("Look to Your Heart"), showing off a lovely voice. Trujillo's choreography is noteworthy for the distinctive styles used in the different neighborhoods and is executed with brio. Brian P. Kennedy (keyboards) conducts a ten-piece orchestra that makes Menken's and Sater's score come alive.
Like other musicals that have come before it (Hairspray, Jersey Boys, West Side Story, to mention a few), A Bronx Tale feels familiar as it evokes a time, a place, and a genre that we recognize. It is a good, solid show with great music, performances, and design elements that provides a couple of hours of entertainment and escape. Although 1968 was a watershed year, the characters in A Bronx Tale are just starting to realize that there's a much bigger world beyond the edges of their neighborhood.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus (Touring Company Finale)