Actor Chazz Palminteri’s one-man show is one that has gone from the stage to the screen and back again as Robert DeNiro directed in in the 1993 film of the same name and then turned into a musical that hit Broadway in 2016. Now it is a touring company and is currently playing at Dallas’ Winspear Opera House through January 6th.
Based on events from Palminteri’s own life growing up in the 1960s, Joey Barreiro and Frankie Leoni play him at different parts of his life (Shane Pry plays the younger version at some performances) as “Calogero” (Chazz’s given first name) witnesses a hit by Sonny (Joe Barbara), and when he doesn’t identify Sonny to the police, he becomes a sidekick to the gangster at the behest of his father, Lorenzo (Richard H. Blake). As he approaches adulthood, he starts to follow in his mentor’s footsteps with his own crew and also falls for an African-American girl named Jane (Brianna-Marie Bell), causing some more tension between their two neighborhoods which are two blocks apart. It all comes to a head, and none of them may come out the other side of it the same.
This was a pretty cool experience that starts with the fact that a chunk of this cast (Barbara, Blake, Bell, and Leoni amongst others) were part of the show during its Broadway run, giving a sense of comfortability and professionalism that brings their performances to that next level. This cast overall is rock solid (all of whom are mic’d up), with choreography that is as tight as a drum and production work that compliments that choreography on the same level. Brian P. Kennedy conducts a great orchestra that keeps the story moving and deserves special recognition as well.
If there is a criticism here, it is in the music itself. My plus one noted that a lot of the songs were very similar in fashion, and I could not really debate it. While the songs do fit the time they are set in, it did become difficult to figure out where one ended and the next began in a couple of spots. This was not enough for me to downgrade my enjoyment of the production, but it is something that I feel is worth mentioning. I personally would have like to seen more of a focus on the budding relationship between “C” (as Sonny shortens his name to) and Jane as it played out against the backdrops of their respective surroundings, which would have given more emotional punch than what was already there. Although I did not on purpose, I feel like I now want to go revisit the film to see what parts of this story got more depth to them because I kind of feel that this one as well as the climax, which were probably trimmed down for time. (This one is actually shorter than a lot of the productions we have seen, so this would be an interesting case study for this.)
With a story that hits all of the right emotional notes at the right times that I have seen correctly described as “Jersey Boys” meets “West Side Story,” “A Bronx Tale” is one that is more than worth your time whether in the Dallas/Fort Worth area or anywhere this talented cast and crew happen to be if they come to your town!