Friday, October 26, 2007

A Bronx Tale (The SOB Review)

A Bronx Tale (The SOB Review) - Walter Kerr Theatre, New York, NY

***1/2 (out of ****)

Move over Jersey Boys, there's a new kid in town. At last, Chazz Palminteri's enthralling solo show A Bronx Tale has arrived to cheers on Broadway.

Not since Jersey Boys burst onto the Broadway scene two years ago has the Great White Way so enthusiastically embraced a long dormant Broadway demographic: the bridge and tunnel Baby Boomer goombah.*

And I mean that with all due respect and admiration. I swear! I realize not every Rialto show these days caters to this long neglected group. But with A Bronx Tale, audiences of every type can appreciate its universal message.

Just like Jersey Boys, this real-life story centers on growing up Italian in some of the mean streets circling Manhattan. While Jersey Boys includes a young tough character who grows up to be a big-time actor (Joe Pesci), its musical plot revolves around the popular singing group, The Four Seasons. Contrast that with A Bronx Tale, which in first person voice tells how a young tough grows up to be a big-time actor (Palminteri) while referencing a popular singing group, Dion and the Belmonts, who inhabit the same slice of Bronx.

In Palminteri's Bronx Tale, the actor/writer brings to vibrant life 18 different characters from his coming of age, including himself as a mere boy of 9 named Calogero. At that tender young age, he witnesses the exacting revenge offered by Sonny, the neighborhood's capo di tutti capi, and ends up in his tutelage and becomes known as "C."

While young C finds what he perceives as newfound cachet mistaking it for respect, the boy also learns from his hardworking father what it really means to be tough, along with a mantra that has held Palminteri to this day: "The saddest thing in the world is wasted talent."

There is no wasted talent on this stage. Palminteri's ability to tell his captivating story in so many varying voices is grounded in fact, even if some of the historical details aren't -- his tale begins in 1960, which he describes as a time when John F. Kennedy was in the White House (while Kennedy was elected in November 1960, he didn't take office until 1961).

Nevertheless, Palminteri ultimately succeeds in this ninety minute tale, beginning with a moderately amusing foundation and then building and building to a climax that is indisputably gripping theatre. Most astounding was his use of slow motion effect to relay some of the production's most riveting moments.

Make no mistake, Palminteri is a master story teller, from his hilarious lessons on how to know whether a woman is wife material to his heartfelt disclosure on his attraction to a beautiful young African-American woman amidst a sea of racial bigotry.

Told from the heart, it remains to be seen what this Bronx Tale's next chapter will be, whether it's a Tony nod for Best Special Theatrical Event or Best Revival of a Play. But it's ultimate message is so powerful and breathtaking that it deserves recognition long after its limited run comes to a close on February 10.

* Defined as "a close friend or associate -- used especially among Italian-American men" (Webster)

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for ticket information.
Related Stories:
Bronx Boy Takes Bite Out Of Big Apple Tonight (October 25, 2007)
Bronx Tale Set To Begin Anew In Manhattan (August 8, 2007)

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At 26 October, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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