BWW Review: A BRONX TALE unfolds at The Washington Pavilion
Downtown Sioux Falls was transformed into the streets of working class New York Saturday night as A Bronx Tale hit the stage Washington Pavilion. This gritty glimpse of a young man's life growing up on Belmont Ave. in the 1960's is based on the one-man show written and performed by Chazz Palminteri. That show inspired the hit 1993 film directed by Robert De Niro. With music and lyrics by Oscar, Grammy and Tony winner Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) and Glenn Slater (The Little Mermaid, Sister Act, School of Rock), A Bronx Tale opened on Broadway in 2016 with a 700 night run.
The show is a gutsy mash up of Jersey Boys meets West Side Story with a nod to The Soprano's and Goodfellas thrown in there for good measure. The opening street scene number "Belmont Avenue" is a fast paced, doo-wop song, reminiscent of "Skid Row" from Little Shop of Horrors, only much more upbeat, as the cast belts out the catchy 60's melody and a tight knit male quartet croons under a street lamp.
We soon meet young Calogero, played by the powerhouse young performer Trey Murphy. This kid has got some serious chops when it comes to singing and acting. It was almost a shame that he had to grow up. He witnesses a murder on the street in front of his house orchestrated by the local crime boss Sonny, played by Jeff Brooks. Ultimately, the young Calogero ends up covering for Sonny when the cops show up and question him and his parents and a not-so-healthy friendship is formed between the mobster and the impressionable boy.
Calogero's father Lorenzo, played by 2015 American Idol winner, Nick Fradiani, tries in vain to convince his son to not be coerced by the con man in "Look To Your Heart", a beautiful ballad sung with conviction and care by a concerned father. Fradiani's vocal stylings were strong throughout the show and it was easy to see how he captured the coveted Idol win.
Alec Nevin plays the role of the 18 year old Calogero. He has all the right moves and swagger of a sexy young Italian-American, with a voice to match. He falls into his role as a young mobster with Sonny and his gang with ease, but remains at odds and conflicted with his parents and his new found love for Jane, played by Kayla Jenerson, the girl a few blocks over on Webster Avenue. This new relationship adds even more angst and racial tension to his life on Belmont Avenue. Jenerson is sweet and strong as her feelings for Calogero grow, but she too is conflicted as tensions mount between her brothers and friends on Webster Ave. and the gang on Belmont in a very Romeo and Juliet scenario.
Other stand out performances of the night belong to Brooks as Sonny, the mob boss with an unexpected big heart and big voice. His song "One of the Great Ones" is wonderful as he schools Cologero on dating and discovering your true love. Another highlight was Stephanie Londino in the role of Rosina, Colgero's mother. She had a Patti LuPone like quality to her voice and conjured up memories of Tom Hanks mom in the movie Big (Mercedes Ruehl) in her tender rendition of "Look To Your Heart" in the second act.
With some spot on, high energy choreography, a great 60's-esque score and a compelling, coming of age script that harkens back to some classic American musicals and stories, there's a little bit of something for everyone in A Bronx Tale. It should be mentioned that there is some strong language and a few violent scenes that may not be suitable for some, but all in all, this show is worth taking in. You have two more chances to catch it at the Washington Pavilion, Sunday Feb 9th at 2:00 and Monday, February 10th at 7:30. Visit www.washingtonpavilion.org for tickets.