A BRONX TALE, which most of us have seen as a film starring Robert De Niro, is now a musical on tour at the Hollywood Pantages through Nov. 25. De Niro is one of the directors, in collaboration with Jerry Zaks.
A BRONX TALE is the story of Calogero (Joey Barreiro), who recalls his years growing up in the Bronx at a time when the city was segregated and the streets filled with gangsters. As a nine-year-old, Calogero witnesses a shooting done by a most feared mobster, Sonny (Joe Barbara), but refuses to tell on him to the police. As a result, Sonny takes him under his wing and teaches him the best way to survive on the streets – fear, not love, is the key, he says. On the other hand, Calogero’s father, Lorenzo (Richard Blake), drills on him the importance of looking into his heart and choosing to do the right thing. As a teen, Calogero falls in love with a black girl, Jane (Brianna-Marie Bell) who lives in a neighborhood where he is not welcomed.
That idea is that you, as part of the audience, will measure between good and bad and choose wisely. But at the Pantages, bad looks more attractive than good because Barbara, reprising his role after he played it on Broadway, is definitely more spirited than his good counterparts. He plays a Sonny that is funny, handsome, dangerous, yet shows genuine concern for Calogero. He preaches Machiavelli, but he knows what he’s lost due to his lifestyle. You can’t help but love him.
Young actors always capture the audience’s heart and Frankie Leoni, playing young Calogero, is no exception. But he has more than his youth going for him. His dancing flows out of him seemingly effortlessly.
Racist slurs are thrown back and forth between the Italians and the Blacks, which is uncomfortable to hear today, and yet, it is encouraging to hear the audience’s reaction to a particular very bad word that is (almost) uttered. You must keep in mind that the musical is set in the Bronx of the 1960s (but then again, sometimes you have to wonder whether our country has managed to improve much since then).
Overall, A BRONX TALE makes for a fun night at the theater. It’s colorful, full of fabulous live music performed by an orchestra that is certainly one of the highlights of the show.
Because of the language, and because of gunshot effects, A BRONX TALE is recommended for ages 12 and above, and children under 5 are not admitted in the theater.
Tickets range $35 to $210, available on Ticketmaster. The Hollywood Pantages is located at 6233 Hollywood Blvd, in Los Angeles 90028.