MILLBURN, NJ – Paper Mill Playhouse took us back in time to the 1960s with its performance of "A Bronx Tale: The Musical"--to a summer evening on the corner of 187th Street and Belmont Avenue in the Bronx, where you could hear doo-wop harmonies on nearly every corner, muffling at least temporarily the turbulent times and racial tensions of the era.
This semi-autobiographical story of Chazz Palminteri’s childhood takes place in a working class Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, where loyalties to family and friends are taken seriously and sometimes in conflict. A Bronx Tale is a universal story of a young boy, Calogero, as he grows into his teenage years caught between the love of a kind, working class father and his fascination with a sophisticated local mobster and father figure.
Palminteri's birth name is Calogero.
The musical, which was adapted by Palminteri’s 1989 one-man show and later made into a film in 1993 by Robert De Niro, premiered at the beloved Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ to a sold out theatre. The iconic De Niro directed and starred in the film version of A Bronx Tale and co-directs the musical with Tony-winning Broadway veteran Jerry Zaks. With Alan Menken composing the music, lyrics by Glenn Slater and choreography by Sergio Trujillo, this is the Ivy League of Broadway talent in a single show.
The marquee names don’t stop there. Performing on stage were some of Broadway’s currently leading and best-known thespians of popular shows like Jersey Boys, Les Miserable, Spiderman and Wicked.
Jason Gotay plays the older Calogero and our narrator as the story unfolds to a shooting over a parking spot in the street. Joshua Colley plays the younger Calogero and doesn’t give up Sonny, played by Nick Cordero, for the murder.
Young Calogero is torn between his father Lorenzo played by Richard H. Blake and his loyalty to Sonny. As the older Calogero later starts having feelings for Jane, a black girl from a different neighborhood played by Coco Jones, he then feels the pressure from his friends and struggles with advice from his father and new father figure.
The performance was absolutely fantastic and the Paper Mill has certainly outdone itself by attracting such talent to Millburn. Gotay, Cordero, Blake and the ensemble balance humor, tragedy and affection with memorable songs and wonderful choreography.
The entire production is extremely well done. The scenery moves with a seamless flow, the costumes impeccable to the era and the music and songs are wonderfully expressive. Strong voices and fun choreography make for a persuasive reason to catch this show before it ends.
There’s no definitive decision whether A Bronx Tale: The Musical will head to Broadway after its run in Millburn. If the reviews thus far are any indication of its potential commercial success, it certainly should be Broadway bound.
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