Broadway at TPAC presents:
A Bronx Tale
Feb. 12 – 17; Ages 12 & older
TPAC's Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 | tpac.org
Remaining showtimes: Wed – Thu 7:30 p.m., Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 & 8 p.m., Sun 1 & 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $30 – $70
Note: This show contains strong language, mature themes and gunshot effects.
An entertaining, coming-of-age story about a young boy's internal struggle lights up the TPAC stage this week during the national tour of A Bronx Tale.
The history of the story goes back to the late 1980s when Chazz Palminteri created a semi-autobigraphical one-man play that moved to off-Broadway. In 1993, it became a movie starring Palminteri as mob boss Sonny and Robert De Niro as Lorenzo — the film also marked De Niro's directorial debut. Palminteri took his one-man show to Broadway in 2007, then toured the country with it. After several years of development, the story became a musical, opening on Broadway on Dec. 1, 2016, where it enjoyed 700 regular performances before closing on Aug. 5, 2018.
The musical closely follows the movie. It features a book by Palminteri, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater, original direction by De Niro and Jerry Zaks, and phenomenal choreography Sergio Trujillo (On Your Feet, Jersey Boys, Memphis, Summer and The Addams Family to name a few).
A Bronx Tale is the story of a boy named Calogero (later known simply as "C"). He's a young Italian-American boy of Sicilian descent (the 9-year-old version played by the enthusiastic Frankie Leoni; Joey Barreiro plays the 17-year-old character) from a working class family in 1960s New York. Calogero's father, Lorenzo (Richard H. Blake) is a hard-working bus driver who aims to instill a sense of family values in his son.
After witnessing a murder by mob boss Sonny (Joe Barbara) on the street in front of his stoop, Calogero refuses to rat out the gangster when the cops arrive. This "good thing for a bad man" causes Sonny to befriend the boy and take him under his wing, much to Lorenzo's chagrin. The mystique of mob life piques the young boy's interest. As he's growing up, Sonny becomes a father figure, and Calogero finds himself caught in between the guidance of his earnest father and the allure of easy money through organized crime.
There's also a romantic subplot that feels ripped right out of West Side Story when teenage Calogero falls for Jane (the charming, vocally gifted Brianna-Marie Bell). The complication is she's black — in the 1960s Bronx, Italians from Belmont Avenue and blacks from Webster Avenue didn't intermingle.
A few of the cast on the tour were in the Broadway run. Both Barbara and Blake reprise the roles they originated, while others played different roles in the Broadway production, including Bell and Michelle Aravena (Rosina).
As the adolescent version of Calogero, Barreiro does a fine job portraying the divided heart within his character, and he plays it with an appropriate amount of sentimentality.
The score contains its fair share of typical musical theater ballads, but it's the doo-wop infused numbers and ones with Motown and early rock flavors that hit the mark. Bell shines in both "Webster Avenue" and "Out of Your Head."
The cast slickly executes Trujillo's amazing choreography, and there's a lot of high-energy oomph throughout the two-hour show.
While there's not necessarily anything groundbreaking about A Bronx Tale, it proves to be an entertaining good time with a buoyancy and humor that are no doubt infectious.