Within the last couple of years, we’ve seen a lot of adaptations and biopics becoming more and more popular in both Hollywood and Broadway. Whether it’s a movie about Queen, a biopic about a pop icon or an adaption musical of a Disney movie, there is a lot. Another one has found its way to Minneapolis, but in a different nature. This one could be mistaken for a completely original show by many however.
A Bronx Tale originally was an autobiographical one-man show. After that it was adapted into a feature film starring and directed by Robert De Niro. The movie was fleshed out more with the plot by taking the one-man show aspect away. After ten-years in development, the story took another stab at Broadway and returned to the stage but in the form of a musical. The musical was co-directed by Robert De Niro. It opened on Broadway on December 1 of 2016 and played over 700 regular performances when it closed on August 5, 2018.
The plot is involves a young man by the name of Calogero who is growing up in the Bronx, New York. It begins when he is a little kid and he witnesses crime nearly every day especially coming from head mobster Sonny. One thing turns into another and soon Sonny sweeps Calogero into his life and takes him under his wing. While Calogero struggles to find the balance between his new life and his life with his family, he also falls in love with a young woman who is African-American, which during this time period was still fairly uncommon.
Right off the bat I’ll admit that that show had a bit of an identity crisis with the plot. It wants to be too many things and tries too hard to focus on every single plot versus picking one major plot line with subplots to accompany. At times I felt like it wanted to be too many things with its major themes of crime, racism, not only love but forbidden love, family and more. It just was too much for me. Many other critics have said this show is a mix of Jersey Boys and West Side Story which is a great example because those two shows are nearly nothing alike and A Bronx Tale really is a mixture of both...for better or for worse.
The plot was the biggest thing for me that just didn’t make sense or feel right. The performers are all fantastic and it’s always a disappointing thing when that happens. However as I said, the actual performances are all great. Joey Barreiro plays Calogero and really does capture that New York charm. Joe Barbara plays Sonny and is one of the driving forces behind the plot in helping push it forward but other than that the role is a bit forgettable.
Brianna-Marie Bell plays Calogero’s love, Jane and did liven up the show a bit after intermission with a thrilling performance of “Webster Avenue.” Her vocals fit the song well however it goes back to the problems I had with the plot in a sense of the role just feels like it was thrown in there for one more conflict. I would have liked to see their relationship blossom more through out the first act as she was barely even in it. Due to this, the role feels like it was thrown in for no reason during the second act.
Every single actor was probably out shined by Frankie Leoni who plays a young Calogero. He was only in a few scenes in the beginning of the show but truly made the show worth it with his adorable stage presence and even more impressive voice even during his solo number “I Like It.” Honestly, I wish the plot would have spent more time with Calogero being younger because Leoni’s performance was spot on.
Being a fan of Robert De Niro, as well as a huge fan of Alan Menken who wrote the music, I was fairly surprised at how much this show fell flat for me. Menken is legendary for his music and this score just didn’t give me the same thrill that his music usually does. I think the idea of the show is definitely there and it has some nuggets of inspiration but overall it just wasn’t there.
A Bronx Tale runs at the Orpheum Theatre with Hennepin Theatre Trust now through Feb. 24