Alec Nevin as Calogero and Trey Murphy as Young C in A BRONX TALE. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Based on both the 1993 film of the same name that marked Robert DeNiro’s directorial debut and the one-man show that inspired it all, DPAC’s production of A Bronx Tale effectively brings to life a story that is at times frightening, often touching, and above all, incredibly honest and real.
The show opens with its aptly-named “Belmont Avenue” number, which clearly places the time (the 1960s), place, and overall atmosphere of the world in which it is set. The audience is quickly introduced to young Calogero, portrayed by just-as-young Trey Murphy, a child actor who brings great charisma and likeability, as well as a powerhouse voice, to the role.
From his New York front stoop, Calogero witnesses a mafia boss, Sonny (Jeff Brooks) kill a man. And, when the young boy chooses to keep his mouth shut, he enters into a world in which he is befriended by this powerful, trust-no-one criminal, striking up a friendship that, against the wishes of Calogero’s father, Lorenzo (Nick Fradiani), will span over the next eight years and ultimately leave a lasting impact.
And, while it may sound odd given that Sonny’s first onstage act is a murder, Sonny proves to be one of the most endearing characters in this production, due largely to Brooks’ multi-layered characterization. Sonny is every bit as intimidating and, at times, downright scary as the script calls for him to be. However, Chazz Palminteri’s rich script and Brooks’ heartfelt portrayal make Sonny out to be a real, dimensional person, one with a heart and the best intentions he can understand lurking underneath it all.
All too quickly, Calogero turns into an older version of himself, portrayed to sweet-hearted, blissfully-naive perfection by handsome, chiseled Alec Nevin. This Calogero, nicknamed simply “C” by his beloved Sonny, is just starting to question the world around him, as well as the confines and limitations of it that he cannot understand or abide by. In turn, he meets and falls for the beautiful Jane (Kayla Jenerson), who, problematically in his world, is black.
The two actors share amazing chemistry, especially during their rendering of the “Out of Your Head” number, which features effective use of spotlighting and really shines a literal and figurative light on Jenerson’s incredible vocal skills, which remain impressive throughout this fast-paced, non-stop-action-filled piece.
Their chemistry, however, rivals the amazingly real relationships evidenced between C and his father and, most of all, between C and Sonny. While Fradiani’s Lorenzo is sympathetic, understandable, and altogether loveable, especially as explained in the beautiful “Look to Your Heart” ballad, powerfully delivered by Stefanie Londino as Rosina, C’s mother, nothing quite rivals the intensity and authenticity with which Nevin’s “C” looks up to his Sonny.
In fact, it is these male relationships that are at the heart of this touching musical. A coming of age tale about male identity, male relationships, and the role models we create for ourselves- as well as the difficulty of realizing their faults- A Bronx Tale is a show that fills an important gap for the oft-overlooked male theatergoer but that is also one that any viewer can relate to. Completed by stellar choreography and a colorful, lively ensemble cast, this production is one of the best and most authentic to grace the DPAC stage in recent history. Fans of the film and newcomers to the story alike are sure to delight in the sheer honesty and heartfelt truth of this powerful production.
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