‘A Bronx Tale’ offers lessons of fear and love

 

Touring company of 'A Bronx Tale' (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)
Touring company of ‘A Bronx Tale’ (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)

4 stars

This version of the coming of age story “A Bronx Tale” is based on an off-Broadway, one-man play by Chazz Palmintiri later turned into the 1993 Robert De Niro movie of the same name.

Adding music by Alan Menken and Lyrics by Glenn Slater this is a very successful adaptation appearing in Chicago on tour.

Narrated by Calogero (Joey Barreiro), he tells of growing up in an Italian/American section of the New York borough of The Bronx during the tumultuous and racially charged era of The Sixties. And that he is mentored by a local mobster, Sonny (Joe Barbara), and is hanging out with “the wrong crowd.”

Joe Barbara and Joey Barreiro in 'A Bronx Tale'. (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)
Joe Barbara and Joey Barreiro in ‘A Bronx Tale’. (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)

Thus he is in conflict with the morality lessons provided by his hard working, bus-driving father, Lorenzo (Richard H. Blake).

Young Calogero (Frankie Leoni) comes to the attention of Sonny when the boy witnesses a crime. As a result, the mobster decides to take the boy under his wing and gives him the street name “C”.

The two bond over the years, demonstrated through a series of musical numbers like “Roll ‘em,” where Sonny teaches “C” to play craps after which the boy makes a few bucks and sings, “I Like It.”

Later, the elder educates the younger about the philosophy of “Nicky Machiavelli,” and instructs him in the ways of love in “One of the Great Ones,” a tune that Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra would have been happy to sing.

“A Bronx Tale” has a little something for everyone from crooning ballads and doo-op to Motown and modern pop styles.

Calogero’s father Lorenzo tries to keep him on the straight-and-narrow with “Look to Your Heart,” later reprised by the boy’s mother, Rosina (Michelle Aravena).

“C” is continually drawn back to the street life providing the conflict that interjects turmoil, drama and passion into a play that includes  a few thugs, some violence and a forbidden love reminiscent of “West Side Story.”

We learn the other side of the racial divide in “Webster Avenue” and come to appreciate the challenges between Calogero and his new love, Jane (Brianna-Marie Bell), in “Out of Your Head,” and “In a World Like This.”

This is a first class production with very approachable music, arranged by Ron Melrose with an orchestra led here by Brian P. Kennedy. The excellent, at times, acrobatic choreography of Sergio Trujillo is well executed by a talented cast and swing dancers.

Congrats to Tara Rubin Casting for providing an all-star group of professionals and Tribeca Productions for putting together another winning company.

It was clear that this production has a clear vision directed by veteran stage and film actor/director Robert De Niro with Jerry Zaks. It features an evocative scenic design by Beowulf Boritt augmented by Howell Binkley’s lighting design.

If you are lover of traditional Broadway Musicals you’ll love this play which is destined to become a classic.

DETAILS: “A Bronx Tale” is at the James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph Street, Chicago through March 24, 2019. Running time: 2 hours , 5 minutes with an intermission. For tickets and information visit Broadway in Chicago.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

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