|A BRONX TALE: THE MUSICAL|
Those boys from Jersey are heading away from the Great White Way next month, but there will still be some do-wop, sweater girls and Italian gangsters on Broadway if the new musical “A Bronx Tale” lasts another six weeks at the Longacre Theatre. But will audiences take this rather misbegotten project to heart or will it become a short-lived story? (And speaking of heart, you could play a really dangerous drinking game if you took a swig of alcohol every time that word shows up in either Chazz Palminteri’s script or the tuneful if not always appropriate score by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater.)
For all the work’s flaws, one can’t doubt the well-meaning efforts of co-directors Robert DeNiro (who helmed the film version) and Jerry Zaks (who steals bits and pieces from his own repertoire, ranging from “Grease” to “Guys and Dolls”), the power of Palminteri’s coming-of-age story about an impressionable young Bronx lad named Calogero (played as a 9 year old by the hammy Hudson Loverro and as a 17 year old and adult narrator by the rather bland Bobby Conte Thronton), or the craft Menken and Slater put into their period-inspired songs. Still, you would think such accomplished men might realize that cold-blooded murder, racial unrest and pseudo-Motown mix kind of like gin and Diet Coke.
Moreover, even as engaging as a few of the musical numbers are – choreographed with verve by Sergio Trujillo – they diminish Palminteri’s core story, which is about how Calogero must choose to follow the example of his moral, tough-but-tender bus driver dad Lorenzo (the excellent Richard H. Blake) or his friend and protector, the tough-but-tender mega-gangster Sonny (the fabulous Nick Cordero). Ultimately, as “C” learns, both men really want the same thing for him: a better future far away from Bronx’s colorful Belmont Avenue (rendered a bit underwhelmingly by Beowulf Boritt, whose set resembles the superior one he created for Lincoln Center’s recent revival of “Act One.”)
For a moment or two, it looks like C’s future might include Jane (the superb Ariana DeBose), his smart and kind African-American classmate from Webster Avenue, but in Palminteri’s version of his life, this interracial couple would have had less chance of survival than Tony and Maria. And yes, that reference to “West Side Story” is totally intentional, since one of the biggest problems with “A Bronx Tale” is how often it seems to aspire to match that masterpiece’s achievement – and how far short it falls of that aim. It’s not even half as good as “Jersey Boys.” And Palminteri, who is a one-of-a-kind storyteller, should have known that Imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery.
By Brian Scott Lipton
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Nick Cordero, Richard H. Blake, Bobby Conte Thornton, Ariana DeBose, Lucia Giannetta, Bradley Gibson, Gilbert L. Bailey II, Joe Barbara, Michael Barra, Jonathan Brody, Ted Brunetti, Brittany Conigatti, Kaleigh Cronin, Trista Dollison, David Michael Garry, Rory Max Kaplan, Dominic Nolfi, Christiani Pitts, Paul Salvatoriello, Joey Sorge, Cary David Tedder, Kirstin Tucker, Keith White, Michelle Aravena, Gerald Caesar, Charlie Marcus, Wonu Ogunfowora, Joseph J. Simeone
Preview Open/ Preview Close Dates
Preview Opening 11/3/2016
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