Tuesday, October 10, 2017
No Pale Tale: Vivid Legend Comes To Life
It's been called a combination of West Side Story and Jersey Boys.
But it's more like Saturday Night Fever with a bit of Hairspray and a dash of Memphis thrown in.
It's a coming of age morality tale with a strong narrative set to music.
And on December 1, A Bronx Tale, The Musical will likely defy the odds and celebrate its first anniversary on Broadway.
Here's a show that received virtually no award nominations and only mixed reviews from the critics and yet it has survived more-nominated and more-heralded shows that opened around the same time. How and why did this happen?
Well, this is a strong, story-driven show that draws you in with a compelling central character whose drive and yearning and hardscrabble natural instincts keep you watching and cheering him on even when he makes the wrong decisions.
We never saw the movie, A Bronx Tale or the one man show performed by the tale's author Chazz Palminteri. So we knew nothing about the show going in.
And in the middle of the first act we began to wonder if the tale itself would be done in by too many wise-guy stereotypes and a bunch of caricatures instead of fully-formed personalities.
But as the story unfolded, piece by piece, complete with unexpected twists and turns, we found ourselves not just fully involved but downright seduced. A Bronx Tale really is that kind of show. Taken from the streets, it becomes real enough to be credible and aspirational enough to get you rooting for it.
Bobby Conte Thornton as Calogero, the central character. is full of fury, anguish and raw ambition in an absolutely standout performance. As the young Calogero, Will Coombs makes a stunning Broadway debut. And Nick Cordero (as Calogero's adopted and questionable mentor) is so full of testosterone and swagger that he'll surprise you when he offers his one-time protegé his final words of wisdom. Cudos also to Richard L. Blake for his poignant performance as Lorenzo; to Lucia Gianetta for her sensitive turn as Rosina and to Christianna Pitts in her memorable Broadway debut as Jane.
The songs in the show (by the prodigious Alan Menken with Glenn Slater) are alternately witty, instructive and thoughtful. These include the opening number, Belmont Avenue, the clever Nicky Machiavelli, the tender Look to Your Heart and the finale, The Choices We Make.
The three-part revolving set by Beuwulf Boritt is perfect and the costumes by the great William Ivey Long are spot on, as is the choreography by Sergio Trujillo.
The whole thing is lovingly directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zacks who have been more than faithful to this autobiographical journey created by their pal, Chazz.
A Bronx Tale is all in the family and that family includes not just the row home, the stoop, the street, the neighborhood and all of the Bronx but the yearning heart inside each and every one of us.