Bob & Sandy Nesoff
Chazz Palminteri’s somewhat biographical story, A Bronx Tale, has had an interesting run over the years. It began as a one-man show with Palminteri, in Los Angeles and then to New York as an off-Broadway production.
It made a major jump to the big screen in 1993 with Robert De Niro in the starring role of a bus driver competing for the respect and affection of his son with a gangster, played by Palminteri.
The story remains in The Bronx of the 1960s, but it’s taken on a bit of West Side Story (see below) in this incarnation as a musical. Both De Niro and Palminteri are back with this production. That should be enough to guarantee a “knock ‘em dead” show.
De Niro co-directs with famed Jerry Zaks. The music is by award-winning Alan Menken.
In the Paper Mill Playhouse production, Nick Cordero plays the Palminteri role of gangster, Sonny. Richard H. Blake is De Niro’s Lorenzo and Joshua Colley plays the young version of his son, Calogero. Jason Gotay steps into the adult shoes of Calogero.
The clash between Sonny and Lorenzo is classic, each looking out for young Calogero. The boy, to his father’s dismay, is enthralled by the money and power the gangster has. That sets up a clash between the gangster and the father.
Although the story is set 67-years ago, it could come from today’s tabloids. Calogero falls for a beautiful black woman, Jane, played by Coco Jones. If you think the brouhaha about the Academy Awards is fraught with racial tension, wait until you see how the young lovers affect their respective communities. This could ignite a race war.
The tension in the play is handled beautifully and draws the audience in. You can’t help but root for Calogero and Jane, but at the same time you are terrified by his growing closeness with gangster Sonny. The showdown between Sonny and Lorenzo is classic... the bad influence vs. the parent looking to protect his young son. Who wins? Check it out for yourself. The show will run at Paper Mill Playhouse through March 6. Tickets here are far less expensive than they will be when the show transitions to New York, with prices starting as low as $69. And, no less important, there isn’t a bad seat in the house and the seats are far more comfortable.
For information and reservations: 800-840-9227.
On a much lighter note, upcoming shows for the remainder of the season are:
Pump Boys and Dinettes (April 6-May 1), a truly rollicking musical that is joyous, with a little bit of heartbreak and an overabundance of hilarity. The show is a tribute to life at a roadside diner. It takes place on a rural highway in North Carolina, somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna.
Four hard working guys at a gas station have been known to do, when necessary, auto repairs. But they can only do it when they are accompanied by great tunes and the need for a couple of beers.
Next door to the gas station is the Double Cupp Diner where the Cupp sisters offer their famus home cooking and songs. Picture Dolly Parton as a waitress with the famous “Double Cupp.”
West Side Story (not quite A Bronx Tale, but with some of the same racially fired overtones) makes a comeback from June 1-June 26 to close the season. The updated version of Bill Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, has set pulses rising for decades. And as old as it might be, the music and dancing still wows audiences.
This legendary musical has set the bar on the stage for all musical theater. The amazing dance numbers are soul-stirring as the Sharks and Jets confront each other. One of the big draws is that this production has the original Jerome Robbins choreography.
The location for the story, which debuted in 1957, is gone, having been replaced by Lincoln Center. It is Romeo and Juliet transported to New York and the clash between somewhat upscale high school boys and girls and the newly arrived Puerto Ricans looking to find their place in society.