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Theater Review—‘A Bronx Tale’ Has The Right Ingredients, But They Don’t Mix

Joe Barbara and Frank Leoni in "A Bronx Tale-The New Musical." Photo by Joan Marcus

Posted Friday, November 16, 2018 - 1:43 pm

By Chelsea Cutler

Jersey Boys meets Sesame Street meets Hairspray. Who doesn’t love a musical with tough guys and their Bronx accents, overcoming segregation, and the ’60’s…not to mention lots of sitting around on New York stoops? A Bronx Tale-The Musical currently at The Pantages (through Nov. 25), had all the right ingredients for a musical hit. But the result, unfortunately, is a stale tale.

To give you a little background: Chazz Palminteri starred in his autobiographical one-man show of the same name in the ’80s. In his coming-of-age story (a boy named Calogero) in the Belmont district of The Bronx is torn between the more exciting life of crime with Sonny, a father-like figure, and his biological by-the-book, loving, working father, Lorenzo. Robert De Niro bought the film rights and Palminteri wrote the screenplay and portrayed the mobster “Sonny” in the ‘93 film. After the movie’s release, Palminteri brought the one man show to Broadway where it was a sold out success.

Premiering in 2016, the show was adapted into a musical with a book by Palminteri with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater. De Niro and Jerry Zaks co-directed with choreography by Sergio Trujillo. The show was produced by Tommy Mottola.

Alan Menken is certainly accomplished and one of the most celebrated/talented composers of our time with such films as The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast and Pocahontas plus Broadway productions Little Shop Of Horrors, A Christmas Carol and Sister Act.

However, I found the music to be lackluster and incompatible with the story. There was no definitive score for the different characters- everyone had the “same note.” The music particularly missed the mark for Sonny, who had multiple floral and nondescript contemporary songs. No one left the theater humming simply because there wasn’t a song to catch on to. Hardly a nod to the ’60s or to New York Italians.

The story takes a while to unfold because only by the middle of the second act, didI get a glimpse into why choosing between his two father figures would be a painstaking decision. Before then, there was no question that the ever-entertaining Sonny (Joe Barbara) and quite likable Calogero (Joey Barreiro) had a magnetic bond, and that there wasn’t much connection built between Calogero and his stable father, Lorenzo (Richard H. Blake).

Jane (Brianna-Marie Bell), Calogero’s love interest, and her crewkept a smile on my face with their high-energy, witty comments, and well choreographed dance scenes. Jane and Calogero’s time together was delightful and almost giddy worthy. That being said, the ending was a too quick “tie with a bow” finish that left a lot to be desired and overall the pacing felt overcompensated- as if slapping together a lot of information and quickly glossing over developing storylines and relationships.

The show is still enjoyable for consistent theatregoers and those Bronx Bombers who’d appreciate a flash from the past. I can’t say it’s award worthy or up to par with its similar competition, but the pronounced characters were memorable.

2.5 bagels out of 4

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