Paper Mill Playhouse’s world premiere of A Bronx Tale: A Musical, based on Chazz Palminteri’s 1993 film opened last night and, in the words of Sonny, “This one could be one of the greats.”
A Bronx Tale is the coming of age story of an Italian-American kid (Calogero) from the Bronx (Belmont Ave to be exact) trying to find his path in life, choosing between his working class bus driver father (Lorenzo) and a mob-boss father-figure (Sonny) who takes him under his wing. From them both he learns that the “saddest thing in life is wasted talent, and the choices that you make will shape your life forever.”
I had the pleasure of seeing A Bronx Tale the Musical last night at the official press opening (a perfect Valentine’s Day date night with my husband Greg). In all honestly, as much as I love the movie A Bronx Tale, I had some reservations on a musical adaptation. But when a show is co-directed by two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro and four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks and has music by the great Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater — you know it’s going to be very good.
A Bronx Tale is very good. It has an incredible cast. Stand outs are Joshua Colley as the young Calogero who charmed the audience with his short time on stage and his “They Call Me C” number; Jason Gotay is perfect as the older Calogero who also narrates throughout, and Nick Cordero as Sonny was outstanding.
Add in a great set design that captures the backdrop of Belmont Avenue, perfect period costumes, and a script that stays true to the film, and A Bronx Tale the Musical is a winner.
The story is also set against the backdrop of racial strife in the 1960s. And here’s the one area where the musical struggles. The first love romance between C and Jane (played beautifully by Coco Jones) shows that love transcends race and the discussions of their differences and racial tensions in the neighborhood are real and powerful. But a cringe-worthy song full of Italian ethnic slurs sung by the boys in the Black neighborhood was distasteful and silly and did the message a disservice.
Despite that, A Bronx Tale the Musical is a winner.
A Bronx Tale the Musical runs now through March 6, 2016. Tickets are $37 – $124. Get your tickets fast, because the show is close to sold out. Note: Due to language (lots of F-bombs) and a few racial slurs, we feel the show is appropriate for teens and up.
Paper Mill Playhouse
22 Brookside Drive
Millburn, NJ 07041
Parking available at the theater ($9)
Where to Eat
There are many choices both near (right in the same building) and a short drive away to make your family theater night even more special. Here are two choices:
- Carriage House Bistro & Bar: located right at Paper Mill Playhouse, Carriage House offers seasonal American cuisine and pre-theater price fixed menus for lunch, dinner and kids. Choose Carriage House for a very special night.
- Basilico: Very good Italian food with a nice kids’ menu offering much more than your standard chicken fingers.