BWW Review: A BRONX TALE at Fisher Theatre Portrays Unique Father-Son Relationships in 1960's The Bronx
Until this Sunday, February 2nd, you catch the 2016 Broadway hit A Bronx Tale at the Fisher Theatre in downtown Detroit. Based on the play of the same name, A Bronx Tale features a book by Chazz Palminteri, lyrics by Glenn Slater, and music by composer legend Alan Menken. The musical was originally directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks, and you can tell that they put a lot of themselves into the show. In my experience, this doesn't always happen with popular Broadway musicals. Oftentimes, you might have a popular show that's seems to just be there for box office appeal, but A Bronx Tale isn't one of these shows; it has a genuine story to tell.
A Bronx Tale spans eight years in the life of Calogero, a young boy growing up in the Bronx neighborhood of New York. As a little kid, he "befriends" a mob boss named Sonny. This show portrays a fascinating parallel between Calogero's relationship with his own father as well as his newfound "friendship" with Sonny. On top of being a look into Calogero's various relationships, A Bronx Tale is also a unique take on the socioeconomic culture of the Bronx in the 1960's.
Before seeing the national tour in Detroit, I had only ever heard the act one love song, "Out of Your Head". While that's still one of my favorite tunes in this musical, I have so many additional favorites now that I've finally seen the show. These include the opening number, "Belmont Avenue"; Young C's signature song, "I Like It"; the act one finale, "These Streets"; and the act two finale, "The Choices We Make."
There are plenty of moments in the show that will grab your attention (including the intense act two number, "Hurt Someone"), but an emotional high point is the aforementioned act one finale, "These Streets." This song brings Calogero's two father-figure relationships to the forefront with a song that illustrates how torn he is (or rather, isn't) between his two worlds. Once act one is over and the house lights come on, you'll be sitting speechless in your seat thinking, "Now that's an act one finale to remember."
Yet another musical number that deserves major props is young C's song, "I Like It." Here you have this little boy (played by Trey Murphy and at some performances, Anthony Gianni Cipolla) entirely leading a whole ensemble of people older and taller than him. It's a quintessential example of the raw talent that child actors have when given the chance to show what they can do.
While each actor is certainly worth shouting out for their respective performances, perhaps it makes sense to briefly talk about the three actors at the heart of the show: Jeff Brooks as Sonny, Nick Fradiani as Lorenzo, and Alec Nevin as Calogero. The respective performances of these actors will have significant impacts on how you think about yourself and about the world around you.
Brooks' Sonny is just the right amount of intimidating mixed with an odd type of kindness, making you also want to be friends with him. Considering what happens at the top of act one, this sensation of feeling attached to Sonny makes you consider whether your own moral compass is out of whack.
Furthermore, Fradiani's portrayal of a hardworking father who feels like he's losing his son is honest and heartbreaking, forcing you to think about the way you've treated (or mistreated) your loved ones. His American Idol-winning voice also makes for a unique sound, maybe even one you haven't really heard yet in a musical theatre setting.
Lastly, Nevin as Calogero is the ideal protagonist: you fall in love with him at just the right moments, and you hate him just as much at other moments. In fact, A Bronx Tale illustrates what exactly is so spectacular of having a main character who doesn't always have his morals completely intact.
I quite enjoyed how Nevin played up both sides of his character. Once you get toward the end of act one and into act two, you'll find yourself questioning whether you should be rooting for him or against him.
I came into A Bronx Tale with limited knowledge of the show and consequently, limited expectations. With that said, my expectations were shattered, and I've now fallen hard for this show. I look forward to seeing A Bronx Tale again, whenever that time may come.
For more information or to buy tickets to A Bronx Tale, visit broadwayindetroit.com or the Fisher Theatre in downtown Detroit.
To keep updated with A Bronx Tale as they travel around the country on their national tour, follow them on their website at bronxtalemusical.com, on Twitter at @BXTaleMusical, on Instagram at @bronxtalemusical, and on Facebook at @BronxTaleMusical.