Review: "A Bronx Tale" at Hollywood Pantages Theatre

 Joan Marcus

Joan Marcus

Jill Weinlein

Chief Los Angeles Critic

Broadway’s coming of age hit A Bronx Tale is filled with exciting choreography by Tony Award nominees Sergio Trujillo (On Your Feet and Jersey Boys). The toe-tapping numbers and catchy musical tunes by Oscar, Grammy, and Tony Award winner Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors and The Little Mermaid), and lyrics by Grammy Award winner and Oscar and Tony Award nominee Glenn Slater (School of Rock, The Little Mermaid and Sister Act) lend to its success. Directed by two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro and four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks, A BRONX TALE has the audience walking out of the Pantages smiling.

Actor and playwright Chazz Palminteri wrote A Bronx Tale in 1989 as a one man show. When Academy Award winning actor Robert De Niro saw the show, he wanted to collaborate with Palminteri and add additional characters to turn the play into a motion picture starring the two as the leads. After the movie’s success, De Niro and Jerry Zaks directed the lively and fun streetwise story for Broadway.

The story begins in a hue of red as a Doo-Wop quartet stand under a street light in a neighborhood with a “big personality.” Apartment buildings in Bronx, New York are creatively silhouetted by scenic designer Beowulf Boritt.

This show has 10 alumni from the Broadway production - 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.

We soon discover a loyalty triangle between a young boy, Calogero Anello (Frankie Leoni) torn between his love for his hardworking bus driving father Lorenzo (Richard H. Blake), challenged by the allure and exciting life of mob boss Sonny (Joe Barbara). Leoni is adorable onstage as he sings and dances with pizzazz beyond his age. Calogero’s world at the age of 9 years old has changed forever after witnessing a street murder right before his eyes. He struggles throughout his formative years observing the consequences between right and wrong.

Calogero’s name is too long, so he is renamed “C” by Sonny and his wacky group of gangsters. Standout mobsters include JoJo the Whale (Michael Barra) with his dazzling dance moves, and bartender Rudy the Voice (John Gardiner) who sings every word he recites. They all have the audience laughing in the popular musical number “Roll ‘Em.”

William Ivey Long dresses the cast in colorful 1960s attire. This talented costume designer has over 70 stage, opera, ballet, television and film credits under his belt.

The plot thickens as “C” matures through his adult years (Joey Barreiro also reprising his Broadway role) and forms his own Italian-American gang. “C” falls for a beautiful black girl Jane (Brianna-Marie Bell) from another Bronx street that Italians rarely visit. Her pleasing melodic Broadway voice shines onstage and the audience adores her. Sonny gives “C” better advice with girls than his father, and his song “One of the Great Ones” is a fan favorite. His rich voice reminds me of a smooth sounding Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra.

When “C” and his thugs beat up some young black men, one happens to be Jane's brother, who mistakes “C” for one of the assailants, instead of someone who actually breaks up the fight. It turns into a West Side Story-esque scene.

The theme of the show is the choices you make will shape you forever. Since this story is based on Palminteri’s childhood, his choices helped guide him away from street life to the bright lights and adulation of Broadway and beyond.

The show is touching, funny and filled with a cast of likable characters, however it does contain some offensive language that may not be suitable for children under 12 years old.

The L.A. Premiere engagement at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre is for a three-week engagement; Now thru November 25, 2018. Tickets for A BRONX TALE are now on sale, and available at www.HollywoodPantages.com/ABronxTale and www.Ticketmaster.com, by phone at (800) 982-2787 or in person at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre Box Office (Opens Daily at 10am PT). Tickets start at $35. Prices are subject to change.

The performance schedule for A BRONX TALE is Tuesday through Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm & 8pm, and Sunday at 1pm & 6:30pm. Opening Night is Thursday, November 8th at 8pm. Please note: there are no evening performances on Thursday, November 22nd nor Sunday, November 25th. There are added performances on For more information, visit www.ABronxTaleTheMusical.com.

For more information on Hollywood Pantages Theatre, visit HollywoodPantages.com, Facebook.com/PantagesTheatre and Twitter.com/Pantages.