Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Broadway Theater Review: A Bronx Tale

By Lauren Yarger
It's another movie made into a musical, and one that I wasn't sure would make the transition, but there's something about the new Broadway version of A Bronx Tale that just won't let you give it a Bronx cheer.

Maybe it's the weight of some of the names behind this film-to-stage endeavor. Alan Menken (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and many others) composes the score with lyrics by Glenn Slater (The Little Mermaid, School of Rock, Sister Act). The book is by Chazz Palminteri (who has a slew of film writing and TV acting credits under his belt) based on his one-man show A Bronx Tale which inspired his Academy-Award-nominated film of the same name. And that's before I mention that Robert DeNiro (who starred in the film) co-directs here with legendary director Jerry Zaks.  

If those names aren't enough to make us take notice, there is a 30-member cast on stage  and that is before I mention that the excellent Sergio Trujillo choreographs. 

So what's it all about? An older Calogero (Bobb Conte Thornton) reminisces about growing up in the Bronx in the 1960s. The young "C" as he is know, idolizes both his hardworking, bus-driver father, Lorenzo (a beautifully voiced Richard H. Blake), and Sonny (Nick Cordero), the local mobster who takes a liking to the boy (played by Hudson Loverro and at certain performances by Athan Sporer).  Lorenzo doesn't like the influence Sonny has on his son, or the fact that he can't compete when it comes to throwing around money and influence.

The lyrics and book seem a bit weak and unnecessarily telegraph action. The women characters -- C's mother, Lucia Giannetta, and Ariana Debose as Jane, Calogero's African-American girlfriend, who causes his some angst in an era that has the races separated outside of school and on opposite sides of the battle lines outside, for example,  -- are mostly window dressing. Getting more development are a slew of gangster types gathered around Sonny: Rudy the Voice (Joey Sorge), Eddie Mush (Jonathan Brody), JoJo the Whale (Michael Harra), Frankie Coffeecake (Ted Brunetti), Tony Ten-To-Two (Paul Salvatoriello), Handsom Nick (Rory Max Kaplan) and Crzio Mario (Dominic Nolfi).

Still, there's something moving about the relationship between Calogero and his father and that, plus a pleasing score by Menken and a run time of just over two hours keep us interested.

A Bronx Tale plays at the Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm;  Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $50-$187: abronxtalethemusical.com; 212-239-6200.

More information:
The design team: Beowulf Boritt, Scenic Design; William Ivey Long, Costume Design; Howell Binkley, Lighting Design; Gareth Owen, Sound Design; Paul Huntley, Hair and Wig Design; Anne Ford-Coates, Makeup Design; Robert Westley, Fight Coordinator; Ron Melrose Music Supervision and Arrangements; Doug Besterman, Orchestrations; Jonathan Smith,  Musical Direction.

A Bronx Tale evolved from the one-man Off Broadway play written and performed by Chazz Palminteri in 1989. During the original Off Broadway and subsequent Los Angeles engagements, Robert De Niro saw the show, and brought the story and star Palminteri to the screen in 1993, making his film directorial debut in the process. Following the success of the film, Palminteri performed the one-man show A Bronx Tale on Broadway in the 2007-2008 Season.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- The theater suggests this show is best for children 12 and up.
-- Language
-- Derogatory terms used for persons of color
-- Derogatory terms used for persons of Italian heritage
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Gun violence

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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