A Bronx Tale Musical review: Dancing, singing, and mobsters

A Bronx Tale Credit: Joan Marcus
A Bronx Tale Credit: Joan Marcus

A Bronx Tale is a 1993 film directed by Robert De Niro, who plays the father of Calogero, an Italian-American boy who is torn between the world of organized crime and his father’s love. It is based on Chazz Palminteri’s life, who portrayed Sonny, a mob boss who acts as a father-figure to Calogero. Originating as a one-man show performed by Palminteri, 2016 saw the premiere of the musical on Broadway. Yes, A Bronx Tale received the musical theater treatment, and the story is gripping with fun music by composer Alan Menkin and lyricist Glenn Slater.

Dancing, singing, and cheerful music usually comes to mind when one thinks of musical theater. But what happens if you take a project like A Bronx Tale and turn it into a musical? The things you’re used to still apply, but it touches on sensitive topics of racial discrimination and mobster violence. The show is even described as “Jersey Boys meets West Side Story,” and that’s a very appropriate comment.

A Bronx Tale Credit: Joan Marcus
A Bronx Tale Credit: Joan Marcus

The Broadway musical is co-directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks, who directed the original one-man show. Set in the Bronx in the ’60s, A Bronx Tale is a coming-of-age story that follows Calogero from a child to a teenager. His first encounter with Sonny was shocking as it resulted in the mob boss killing someone on the streets. Cops came in for questioning and brought Calogero to pick the murderer out from a police lineup. Sonny was one of the men standing, but the boy didn’t rat him out. This earned Sonny’s respect, and he takes Calogero under his wing. Of course, this has made Lorenzo, Calogero’s father, very upset.

If that wasn’t enough drama, Calogero grows up as a teenager and falls for Jane, a black teenager from another part of town. Racial tension builds up in the community, and it causes both sides to come head to head.

We watched the tour performance at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Southern California, which is directed by Steven Edlund and features Jeff Brooks as Sonny, Nick Fradiani as Lorenzo, Alec Nevin as Calogero, and Kayla Jenerson as Jane. Brooks as Sonny is intimidating yet charming, and he is clearly the standout. The cast delivers a wonderful performance and helps move the story along with their acting, singing, and dancing. However, Nevin lays it on a bit too thick with the accent, and sometimes it’s hard to hear what he’s saying.

A Bronx Tale Credit: Joan Marcus

Alan Menken composes the music for A Bronx Tale. Even though it won’t have you memorizing the songs right off the bat, some of the songs are fun and are inspired by the Four Seasons group, doo-wop genre, etc. “I Like It” is one of the memorable songs thanks to the performance by the actor who plays young Calogero and the catchy tune. “Out of Your Head” is the love song with Jane and Calogero, and fans of Disney’s Hercules will be reminded of “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love),” which was also composed by Menken.

A Bronx Tale is a surprising musical with the usual fun song and dance numbers inspired by the ’50s and ’60s while touching on sensitive topics of discrimination and violence. It has a powerful message of love and family and how our environment can influence us.

A Bronx Tale Credit: Joan Marcus
A Bronx Tale Credit: Joan Marcus

To get tickets to A Bronx Tale at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, CA, please visit the SCFTA.org site. The running time is approximately 2 hours long and contains adult language and some violence. (Update: All shows have been canceled for the month of March.)

The show stars Alec Nevin as Calogero, Jeff Brooks as Sonny, Trey Murphy as young Calogero, Anthony Gianni as young Calogero, Nick Fradiani as Lorenzo, Kayla Jenerson as Jane, Stefanie Londino as Rosina, George Vickers V as Tyrone, Martin Bonventre, Hallie Brevetti, Lauren Celentano, Tyler Dema, Bryan Dougherty, Harrison Drake, Adam Grabau, Mairys Joaquin, Breia Kelley, Christopher Miles, Brett Pederson, Jacob Roberts-Miller, Daniel Rosenbaum, Mark Sippel, Johanna Taylor, Joey Trombino, Darius Vines, Rhys Williams, and Nathan Wright.

Directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks, A Bronx Tale is based on the book and one-man show by Chazz Palminteri with music by Alan Menken & Glenn Slater. Stephen Edlund is the tour director with Sergio Trujillo as choreographer, Brittany Conigath as Tour Choreographer, Ron Melrose as music supervisor/arrangements, Beowulf Boritt as scenic designer, William Ivey Long as costume designer, Howell Binkley as lighting designer, Gareth Owen as sound designer, Paul Huntley as hair & wig designer, Anne Ford-Coates as makeup designer, Robert Westley as fight coordinator, Doug Besterman as orchestrations, David Aaron Brown as music conductor, Johnny Gale as period music consultant, and John Mezzio as music coordinator.

Facebook Comments

About author

John Nguyen
John Nguyen 10313 posts

Assassin, scoundrel, head honcho.