'A Bronx Tale' Brings Musical Street Style to the Hollywood Pantages

By Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

A Bronx Tale at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre - Sonny and Calogero
Joe Barbara (Sonny) and Joey Barreiro (Calogero)
Photo: Joan Marcus

Replete with goofy Sicilian nicknames, typically hilarious one-liners, hot-heads, fedoras, a leading man with a kickin' smile, and plenty of attitude, A Bronx Tale, playing the Hollywood Pantages Theatre  for its Los Angeles premiere and at the start of its North American tour, is an audience pleaser down to Sonny's Sharkskin suit.

Academy Award nominee Chazz Palminteri's 'it's all true' chronicle about growing up a Bronx paesan comes to life on the Pantages stage in a heart-warming, street-style musical with 10 alumni from the Broadway production, led by Joe Barbara as Sonny, Richard H. Blake as Lorenzo, Joey Barreiro as Calogero, Michelle Aravena as Rosina, Brianna Marie Bell as Jane, Antonio Beverly as Tyrone, Frankie Leoni as Young Calogero, and Shane Pry as Young Calogero Alternate. 

A Bronx Tale at the Hollywood Pantages - Belmont-Avenue---dance-jump
(foreground, l to r) Haley Hannah, Joseph Sammour,
Joshua Michael Burrage, Giovanni DiGabriele,
Sean Bell, Kyli Rae.
(background, l to r) Robert Pieranunzi, Michael Barra,
Paul Salvatoriello and Mike Backes.
Photo: Joan Marcus

Beautifully narrated entirely by Calogero (Barreiro) this biopic set in the 1960s, where a young man is caught between the two people he loves and respects the most, his father Lorenzo and local mob boss Sonny, takes pretty much the same twists and turns as its classic movie counterpart with some obvious and rather neat exceptions starting with, an original doo-wop score.

'Right off the bat' ... choreography by Tony nominee Sergio Trujillo is killer (no pun intended)!  Referencing a bit of Jerome Robbins dance style, Trujillo sets the tone of the entire production with muscular 'corner guy' moves...which are, in every way,  meravigliosa !

Although emotionally abbreviated, the relationships and conflicts especially between Sonny and Calogero and Lorenzo and Calogero drive the story...real memoir that hovers around romanticized fiction but lands on the concrete side of authenticity.

A Bronx Tale at the Hollywood Pantages - Roll-Em
Joe Barbara (Sonny) and Frankie Leoni (Young C)
and Company of A BRONX TALE
Photo: Joan Marcus

Audiences who haven't experienced the intimacy of the film version are simply going to walk away with the age-old Sicilianu standard - they're loud, they're ridiculous, and family life - eh - it is what it is.  It just ain't like the rest of us. But hey, it's a musical. Go with it.

We are offered some back story in this production which differentiates the genres.  Lorenzo giving up the saxophone in order to support his family, sung by Rosina (Avrena), Calogero's mother, and Sonny's 'great one' love that passes him by.  We get a different sense of humanity with these men which removes them from being one dimensional caricatures of themselves and that counts as no small thing in a musical production.  Not so much for the rest of the characters though. Nevertheless, everyone gets their spotlight large and small.

The first act is absolutely fun and fleshed out.  The second act clips the story for a fast finale which includes the conflict between the Italians and African-Americans that lead up  the demise of Calogero's friends, Calogero's rescue by Sonny, and the climactic moment of Sonny's death. 

A Bronx Tale at the Hollywood Pantages - Jane and Calogero
Brianna-Marie Bell (Jane) and Joey Barreiro (Calogero)
Photo: Joan Marcus

But then, how much more do we really need to wrap up a life abruptly cut down. The aftermath for Calogero is genuinely painful.  We feel his loss and longing and hope for the future as much he does.

What has audiences in a sudden uproar is the N-word which causes a resounding, theater-wide gasp during this show, at least on this night. A 'press pause' reminder that we are still dealing with the same and just-as-ignominious race issues now as there were then.

The stellar vocal scenes in this play happen when Jane (Brianna Marie Bell) walks into Calogero's life. A truly captivating Bell sings her heart out for a showdown of gorgeous, melodic resonance which steps up the entire second act.  

The one criticism of the show is the set design which consistently dwarfs the talent, placing the actors and dancers squarely in competition with the backdrop.  The exception are scenes where upper-levels are used to fill the void. 

Overall though, A Bronx Tale  is such a great time you won't want to miss a beat.  Audiences will come away with a tangibly satisfying experience.

Book by Chazz Palminteri, Music by Alan Menken and Lyrics by Glenn Slater.

Directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks. 

Choreographed by Sergio Trujillo


A Bronx Tale 's ensemble also features Mike Backes, Michael Barra, Sean Bell, Josh Burrage, Joey Calveri, Giovanni DiGabrielle, John Gardiner, Peter Gregus, Haley Hannah, Kirk Lydell, Ashley McManus, Chris Messina, Kyli Rae, Joseph Sammour, Paul Salvatoriello, Jason Williams, and Brittany Williams.

Posted By Tracey Paleo on November 15, 2018 11:24 am | Permalink