EmptyWalter Kerr Theatre, New York (Through Feb. 10)
With this Broadway production of "A Bronx Tale," Chazz Palminteri reprises the hit one-man show that established his career. First performed in Los Angeles and off-Broadway in 1989 by the then-unknown writer-performer, the solo piece continues to be a crowd-pleaser that skillfully taps into audience nostalgia for the glory days of the borough in which the story is set as well as the romanticized image of mobsters that it fosters.
The backstory behind the show is by now well known. Achieving acclaim for his solo show, Palminteri refused to sell the project to Hollywood without his participation. It eventually was brought to the screen by Robert De Niro -- making his directorial debut -- with Palminteri in the pivotal role of the gangster, Sonny.
While the piece definitely has its longueurs and is far too sentimental for its own good, it still works effectively onstage. It relates the supposedly autobiographical tale of Cologio, who, when he was 9 years old, witnessed a murder committed by Sonny, the neighborhood's reigning hoodlum. After the young boy refuses to finger him to the cops, he is taken under the wing by the grateful gangster, who rewards him handsomely for performing odd jobs.
This leads to a conflict between Sonny and Cologio's bus-driver father, Lorenzo, an honorable working man desperate to prevent his son from succumbing to the temptations of the gangster life.
Palminteri entertainingly plays 18 roles in the course of the piece, most of which are safely within his limited range. While occasional straining is evident both in the broad characterizations and formulaic story line, there is enough genuine humor and pathos in the story to compensate for its overly familiar aspects.
A BRONX TALE
Presented by Go Prods., John Gaughan, Trent Othick, Matt Othick and Neighborhood Films in association with Jujamcyn Theaters
Credits: Playwright-performer: Chazz Palminteri
Director: Jerry Zaks
Set designer: James Noone
Lighting designer: Paul Gallo
Original music/sound designer: John Gromada