BWW Review: A BRONX TALE at Rochester Broadway Theatre League
If you've ever seen the movie or one-man-show version of A Bronx Tale you already know that it's a captivating, emotional story about a young working class man growing up during the doo-wop era of the 1960's who's torn between the opposing worlds of criminal life on the streets and the proverbial "straight and narrow." The musical adaptation of the story, featuring music by Alan Menken and a book by Chazz Palminteri (who wrote the one-man-show and starred in the both the play and feature film) pairs the emotional complexity of the film with spirited, high-energy song and dance numbers that make for a truly entertaining night at the theatre.
A Bronx Tale tells the coming of age story of an Italian-American boy Calogero Anello-or "C" - (Joey Barreiro), who, after encountering a local mafia boss named Sonny (Joe Barbara) is torn between the temptations of organized crime and the values of his honest, hardworking father Lorenzo (Richard Blake). Over the course of his formative years Calogero grows close to Sonny, forms a street gang of his own (of sorts), experiences forbidden love, challenges cultural norms around race and segregation, and learns that life isn't always black and white. People can be both good and bad, and as his father always tells him, your whole life is shaped by the choices you make.
Anyone who's seen a number of touring Broadway shows knows that you always run the risk of paying top dollar for a tired, phoned-in performance. Actors in these touring companies traverse the country doing eight shows a week to often sold-out crowds, and it's unfortunately just a reality. They're subject to human limitations of body and voice just like the rest of us are. That being said, I'm happy to report that the production of A Bronx Tale currently playing at the Auditorium Theatre is not tired or phoned-in. It's of the highest quality and artistry, and worth every penny of the ticket price.
Young Cologero, played by Frankie Leoni, is an absolute thrill to watch on stage. He looks no older than 9 or 10 years old, and yet he had the entire audience in the palm of his hand. His singing and dancing were well beyond his years, but more impressive was the overall "greaser" persona that he developed. There were surely many an audience member dying to pinch his cheeks.
Brianna-Marie Bell, who played Cologero's love interest Jane, stole the show with her soaring vocal numbers (especially during "Out of Your Head") and quick wit. I would have loved to see more of her, but she's a powerhouse during the stage time she has.
The most exemplary acting performance comes from Joe Barbara, whose Sonny is just as fierce, complicated, and interesting and Chazz Palminteri's in the film. The character is complex, not squarely fitting the mold of a prototypical "good guy" or "bad guy", and Barbara occupies the role to perfection. Oh, and he ALSO has the voice of an angel.
Sergio Trujillo, the production's choreographer, deserves a huge applause for some of the most impressive and spirited dance numbers that I've seen since Newsies. In particular, "Webster Avenue", the number that opens act II, was a non-stop flurry of spectacularly choreographed dancing.
Arguably the most salient line in A Bronx Tale comes from Lorenzo, who frequently says "the saddest thing in life is wasted talent." Ironically, this quote couldn't be less fitting for the show currently on stage in downtown Rochester. The cast is brimming with talent, and this production of A Bronx Tale is moving, entertaining, and extremely fun.