DENVER (CBS4) – The Broadway musical “A Bronx Tale: The Musical” is the story of a young man coming of age in New York City and how the people around him influence his future. The touring production is playing at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts through Jan. 20.
The story is set in the 1960’s and is based on the life of writer/actor Chazz Palminteri.
“It really stems from the killing that I saw when I was 9 years old. A guy got out with a baseball bat, smashed a window, then he was going to hit him again, then Sonny came over and killed the guy,” Palminteri told CBS4.
Sonny is a real life gangster and holds a lot of power in the neighborhood in which Palminteri grew up. The musical is the story of how Palminteri, or the main character “Calogero” navigates a childhood where the mob is romanticized and his own father wants to steer him clear of that life.
“Sonny didn’t want me to be a gangster. Sonny said the same things that my father said to me. It was almost like I was Sonny’s penance, that he wanted to see me be successful,” Palminteri explained.
Those two important forces acting on the main character drives the action throughout the play.
“He has to choose between following the footsteps of his father or following the footsteps of his mentor, who happens to be a mob boss. So there are the outside pressures of dealing with the mob and that whole situation and also upsetting his parents,” said Joey Barreiro, who plays “Calogero.”
How does a personal story of witnessing a murder become a Broadway musical? Palminteri first wrote it as a one-man play, was a way to break into show business. It then became a movie starring Robert DeNiro and Chazz Palminteri. From there, Palminteri wrote the book for a musical.
“I thought it could be a great musical. It’s just a great story. You know, a great story is a great story, you can’t deny it,” Palminteri said.
Alan Menken added the music and Glenn Slater wrote the lyrics, which is not an easy task in a story set in the early 1960’s, focused on gangsters.
“It has tragedy and comedy, everything wrapped up together, and the score has to do all of those things as well. One of the great things about working with Alan Menken is that he is sort of a master of emotional temperature. He knows, like nobody I’ve ever worked with or heard of, to be honest, how to create in a piece of music an emotion. He can nail that. And then my job, working with him, is to stitch together thoughts behind those emotions, so you’re led from one emotion to the next on a very smooth coarse,” Slater told CBS4.
“A Bronx Tale: The Musical” is not what you expect from a neighborhood mob story, mostly because Sonny is not your typical gangster.
“He’s a very complicated guy, and he’s in this life. He’s sort of fallen into this life of organized crime, but even those guys are real people with longings and tings that they miss in their lives,” said Joe Barbara, who plays “Sonny.”
The touring production of “A Bronx Tale: The Musical” is offering one young actress a great opportunity to mirror her own life. Briana Marie Bell played in the ensemble on Broadway, but has taken on the role of “Jane” in the national tour.
“She is in an interracial relationship. I am as well, and I am a product of an interracial relationship. And I understand the twists and turns and maneuvering through people who are negative and don’t like the concept of interracial love,” Bell told CBS4.