Families are complicated, and politics even more so. Both of these topics are explored and celebrated in Chazz Palmientari’s A Bronx Tale, which opened at the Winspear Opera House on December 26.
So often, experiencing musical theatre is the live equivalent of seeing a great chick flick. A Bronx Tale is an entirely different experience. In fact, the story in A Bronx Tale is one of the most male experiences in musical theatre.
A Bronx Tale is often compared to Jersey Boys, but while the comparisons are obvious, they are also very superficial.
Yes, both shows take place in iconic neighborhoods in the northeast. Both are semi-biographical stories of famed American entertainers. Both highlight the cultural history of the 1960’s. Both have male protagonists. Nevertheless, there the comparison ends.
While Jersey Boys in the end reads like a tribute to the musical contributions of Frankie Valli, A Bronx Tale is a universal story. It evaluates how a child finds the influences in their lives, whether parents, mentors, friends or social powers. And in that story, A Bronx Tale really shines. Joey Barreiro shines as Calogero, or ‘C’ as he his nicknamed, and functions as both our protagonist and our narrator. And Frankie Leoni is a real vocal talent as the young Calogero. He was a real highlight of the first act. Richard Blake, who plays C’s father Lorenzo, is clearly the strongest vocalist in the first act, and a strong paternal presence. Joe Barbara, who plays neighborhood mobster Sonny, is believable in the role, but lacks any memorable vocal moments.
Most people anticipate A Bronx Tale sharing the tough stories of Italian neighborhoods in the New York borough, but do not anticipate the civil rights and racism tale that somewhat dominates the second act. Brianna Marie Bell, who plays Jane, is a vocal powerhouse, and her strong vocals are a highlight of the second act. The role of Jane is a complicated one. A strong black female, Jane is motivated to achieve on her own, frustrated by the racism she experiences in the neighborhood, and confused by the attraction and then love she feels for Calogero. Their relationship is unique in most musicals, as its not eternal love but memorable love that their star-struck relationship represents.
A Bronx Tale will be at Dallas’ Winspear Opera House through January 6, and is a great evaluation of family, influence and love that will resonate with everyone on unique and different levels.