BWW Review: A BRONX TALE at Pasadena Playhouse
A BRONX TALE relates an impressive tale of loyalty, neighborhood and family...
Calogero Lorenzo "Chazz" Palminteri is a Bronx guy through and through. He lives and breathes New York Yankee pinstripes, is addicted to "sauce," and "tawks" Bronxese.
Palminteri is best known for an Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in the film "Bullets Over Broadway" and playing "tough guys" on both the big screen and television, but has gained additional fame for his autobiographical "A Bronx Tale."
Originally conceived as a one-man show in which Palminteri performed, "A Bronx Tale" became a 1993 film. The cinema version achieved limited commercial success in spite of praise from the critics. Reviewers heaped accolades on Palminteri and recognized Robert De Niro's excellent directing.
Palminteri is reaching new audiences through the Broadway musical based on the one-man show and film. (He was warmly welcomed when he made a surprise curtain-call appearance following the opening night performance of his play at the Connor Palace, where he heaped praise on Cleveland as a great theater town.)
With book by Palminteri, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater, the story centers on the experiences and people who populated Palminteri's life in "de neighborhood"-Belmont Avenue and 187thStreet in the Bronx.
The coming of age story centers around Calogero witnessing a Mafia boss shooting a man in front of the boy's apartment building stoop. When questioned by the police, the lad intentionally fails to identify Sonny, the neighborhood head of crime, earning a bonded connection between the two.
This relationship creates a family schism when Calogero, nicknamed "C" by Sonny, must choose between the Mafia leader's "slick" and strong-armed illegal ways and his father's advice that "The saddest thing in life is wasted talent."
Crime battles, Calogero meeting and falling in love with an African American girl, an attempt by his friends to firebomb a black nightclub, the murder of Sonny, and Cologero's growing awareness of the negatives of being bound to the neighborhood's rules and customs, rolls out the "facts" of the tale, a story of family and personal growth.
Musical theatre has various genres. There's the musical comedy of "The Producers," "The Adams Family" and "Mean Girls." There are the Juke Box musicals such as "Mamma Mia" and "The Jersey Boys" in which a story is shoe-horned in between pre-written songs. And, there is the musical drama, such as "Next to Normal" and "Dear Evan Hansen" in which dialogue and songs tell a serious story, often with psychological and moral overtones.
"A Bronx Tale" falls in the latter category. It has a serviceable score, a few dance numbers but no glitzy show stopper, and some humor. The story shines forth, not hummable songs or splashy sets and costumes. It has a relevant message. The ideas are not soon thrown away.
The Key Bank Series touring production of the show is a Broadway-level presentation. In fact, two of the leading roles are portrayed by the Great White Way actors who portrayed the parts in New York. Joe Barbara reprises the iconic role of Sonny, and Richard H. Blake, who originated the role of Lorenzo (C's father) in the original staging of the show, is appearing in the role once again.
Barbara is Mafioso perfect! Blake has a gorgeous singing voice which is well displayed in "Look to Your Heart" and "These Streets."
Locals may recognize Solon High School and Kent State University grad Kirk Lydell, who is part of the Ensemble.
The cast is strong, the simple sets work well, and the orchestra is in perfect pitch.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: After seeing A BRONX TALE on Broadway, I wrote: "Look for A Bronx Taleto be one of the hits of the 2016-2017 Broadway season." Anyone who sees the touring version of the musical now on stage in CLE will know why I made that prediction. Yes, this is an excellent production of a nicely conceived musical drama. Go! "Divertitevi"! Enjoy yourself!