A Bronx Tale: The Musical

| February 24, 2016

A Bronx Tale: The Musical    

Paper Mill Playhouse,  Millburn, NJ, February 14, 2016

Reviewed by Chip Deffaa for Cabaret Scenes

Nick Cordero (Sonny) and Richard H. Blake (Lorenzo). Photo by Jerry Dalia

Nick Cordero (Sonny) and Richard H. Blake (Lorenzo).
Photo by Jerry Dalia

I’ve been seeing shows at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse since the 1970s. A Bronx Tale, which is currently getting its world-premiere production at the Playhouse, is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen there. Get tix, if you can! You’ll pay a lot more to see this show if it transfers to Broadway. And I sure hope it transfers. 

I loved the tight, punchy libretto by Chazz Palminteri (who wrote and starred in the original Off-Broadway play of the same name in 1989-90, as well as its subsequent film adaptation in 1993, and the original play’s successful revival on Broadway in 2007). I enjoyed the nicely varied score by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater. Jerry Zaks (who directed Palminteri’s 2007 Broadway production) and Robert DeNiro (who directed and co-starred with Palminteri in the famous 1993 film) are credited as co-directors. They’ve done first-rate work.

And the cast is just right. Nick Cordero—the standout in last season’s Broadway musical  Bullets Over Broadway—is perfect as the mercurial mob boss, Sonny. Jason Gotay—who was so appealing starring in Spider-Man… on Broadway—is likable and winning as Calogero (the role based on Palminteri), who must choose between the values of his working-class parents and the charismatic gangster who takes him under his wing. Coco Jones is a fine, fresh-faced love interest. (And her shimmering head tones, when she gets to sing, are gorgeous.) Special mention must be given to young  Joshua Colley,  who didn’t get much to do as the youngest cast member of Newsies on Broadway, but gets a substantial featured role here, and he impresses mightily. It’s been years since I’ve seen a child actor with such a strong, supple singing  voice. He soared up to a high note (an E-flat) with no signs of effort or strain, with a wonderfully full sound. Awesome. But the whole show is well-acted and well-executed. I was under its spell from beginning to end.  

It’s a somewhat dark story, dealing with mob violence, racial tensions, and tough life choices in the 1960s. A Bronx Tale does not have the upbeat, everyone-lives-happily-ever-after kind of ending that some theater-goers seem to require. And that might cost it some potential ticket-buyers. But I found it both honest and thoroughly entertaining—a winner from start to finish. I hope to see it again.  

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Category: Musical Theatre Reviews, Off-Broadway Reviews, PA/NJ/DE, PA/NJ/DE Musical Theatre Reviews, Regional

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