A BRONX TALE
March 1, 2017
Maybe it was a simpler time, or everyone lived in a smaller universe—one circumscribed by the corner newspaper stand, butcher store and soda shoppe. It’s in one of those tightly knit neighborhoods that “A Bronx Tale” takes shape.
Originally a one-man, semi-autobiographical play by Chaz Palminteri turned film in 1993, “A Bronx Tale” gets the Broadway musical treatment by co-directors Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks with a score by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater.
Fortunate to live with a mother and father who prize education, honesty and self-awareness over quick cash does not diminish the young Calogero’s thirst for adventure and a pocketful of side-cash. By not squealing on the mob when he witnesses a killing, the charismatic mob honcho Sonny (a perfectly tuned Nick Cordero) takes the boy under his ever-expanding wing.
Sporting a fabulous Bronx street attitude, the young Calogero (Hudson Loverro) assumes a James Cagney mobster stance and never relaxes. Not only does this young man look like a forty-year old “wise guy” in kid’s clothing, but also he knocks out one of the show’s audience rousing songs “I Like It Like That!” No doubt if W. C. Fields were alive, he’d refuse to share the stage with Loverro.
Suavely slick, the protective Sonny becomes a second father to Calogero—the one that can answer those questions about women, fast cars and the rush of gambling. Despite his mob habits—an assassination here and there sandwiched between brutal beatings-- Sonny is fleshed-out as a good-hearted mobster with a lead-paneled conscience.
However, determined to channel his son into the “right path” guided by education and honest people, the ever-wise, bus driving father (Richard H. Blake) who never paid-off a Mafioso, gets the final say.
When Calogero reaches high school, the talented Bobby Conte Thornton plays him. Still eager to be “hip” Calogero grows up on Sonny’s “street smarts” and his father’s “values.”
At some point, Calogero becomes enamored of a woman-of-color who lives in another neighborhood. This budding romance takes an understandable hit from rival neighborhood gangs. In a hilarious exchange of urban male myths, Sonny explains to Calogero how to determine if a woman is a worthy girlfriend. Called “The Sonny Test” it’s a sure-fire method that involves a car and old-style door locks.
Throughout the production, warm –blooded doo-wop music mixes with pop music to conjure a world of choices that stand out in stark black and white. The pop dances that ooze an innocence and youthful hope are fashioned by one of the industry’s fine choreographer’s, Sergio Trujillo- a real student of the classic social dances that reigned in the Caucasian and Latin circles from the 1950’s forward.
Crisply directed, the action chugs along leaving the audience to look back fondly at the corner streetlamps spotlighting neighborhood characters and distant dreams.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis