“Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater critic by night- with my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.
Recently, I finally saw the musical, ‘A Bronx Tale,’ on Broadway- after several theater fans told me I really should. The story, if you don’t know, is from the Chazz Palminteri movie or play, loosely based on his life growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s on Belmont Avenue in the Bronx. It’s a kind of cross between ‘Jersey Boys,’ ‘The Godfather’- (or maybe ‘Mean Streets’) with the forbidden romance and racial tensions of ‘West Side Story’ thrown into the mix.
photo: Matthew Murphy in Broadway.com
The lead character, called “C’ for short, played by Bobby Conte Thornton, has two fathers: C’s real one, played at the performance I saw by the understudy, Charlie Marcus (who was fine, if a bit stiff), and his “street father,” Sonny, played to absolute perfection by Nick Cordero. Though the word “mafia” is never mentioned, it’s crystal clear Sonny is a mafia figure and Sonny becomes C’s street father after a very young C does not tell the police he saw Sonny commit a crime and, in gratitude, Sonny takes C under his wing- much to the chagrin of C’s real father. As C grows, Sonny tells him he needs an education consisting of both street smarts and school, so he can be “twice as smart as everybody else.” Thornton- as C- can act, even conjuring real tears toward the emotional finale, though his singing voice was inconsistent.
Worth noting is Christiani Pitts, who plays Jane, C’s love interest. This is her Broadway debut and she was captivating by being charming, adorable and also having a great singing voice.
Alan Menken, the multi-award winning composer, has given her and the rest of the cast several good songs to sing, too. And kudos to the great choreographer, Sergio Trujillo, whose work is terrific here, as usual.
The direction, by Robert De Niro- who expressed an early interest to Chazz Palminteri in helping get this show to Broadway- and Broadway veteran Jerry Zaks, is solid as they change fluidly- but believably- between humor, romance and suspense as the racial tensions between the Italians and the blacks, who live two blocks away, mounts. To say it as Sonny might say it, “Dis is a really good show. You oughta’ go see it!” I give ‘A Bronx Tale’ 4 stars out of 5.
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This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”