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Paulanne Simmons

A Bronx Tale Moves to Broadway

A Bronx Tale
Directed by Jerry Zaks and Robert De Niro
Longacre Theatre
220 West 48 Street
Opened Dec. 1, 2016
Reviewed By Paulanne Simmons Dec. 8, 2016

Since “A Bronx Tale” has already been a solo show and a film, it might have been inevitable that it eventually become a musical. This is not necessarily a terrible thing. In fact, the show currently at the Longacre Theater is not at all bad. “A Bronx Tale” has a serviceable book by Chazz Palminteri, an okay score by Alan Menken and adequate if not exactly memorable lyrics by Glenn Slater (the high point is rhyming “pepperoni” with “matrimony”). It’s far from the worst way to spend an evening. Indeed the musical even has a few stand-out features.

Hudson Loverro is excellent as Young Calogero, the clever boy who first comes under the protective wing of Sonny, the neighborhood’s Mafia boss, and Nick Cordero (an obvious choice after his portrayal of Cheech, the bodyguard in “Bullets Over Broadway”) steals the show as the street-wise Sonny. Ariane DeBose who plays Jane, Calogero’s African-American love interest, has a voice with power and range, and it’s a pity she’s underused.

What’s more, co-directors Jerry Zaks and Robert De Niro have given the show some delightful, tongue-in-cheek elements, the best of which is the inspired mugshot introduction of Sonny’s mafia cohorts. Certainly, Howell Binkley’s lighting design and Beowulf Boritt’s set evoke the Bronx of the 60s in a way that’s both real and dreamlike, perfectly suited to this musical made of memories.

However, despite its Broadway venue and big cast, there’s something small-scale and not fully realized about “A Bronx Tale.” Maybe it’s just the show’s solo roots peeking through. It seems the overuse of narration, supplied by the adult Calogero (Bobby Conte Thornton), never lets the show take flight. Even more crippling, the overly contrived plot requires street and bar fights starting and ending at just the right moment. Was life in a working-class neighborhood ever this neat?

Because Calogero and Jane’s love is interracial and doomed, many have compared “A Bronx Tale” to “West Side Story.” But the love story seems almost a side issue in “A Bronx Tale.” Much more crippling, this musical has neither Jerome Robbins’ choreography nor Leonard Bernstein’s score, which turned a somewhat corny adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” into an American classic. Given America’s obsession with organized crime and our inherent love of the tough guy with a soft heart, it’s possible “A Bronx Tale” will strike a chord with enough people to give it a respectable run. Or maybe people will save their money and wait until they can get tickets for “Hamilton.”


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