By Kevin T. Baldwin
(Re-posting from Worcester Telegram & Gazette 01-17-2020)
Presented at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, 2 Southbridge St., Worcester. Performances: 8 p.m. Jan. 17, 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 18, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 19. Tickets $39, $49, $62 and $79 depending on seating availability. Discounts available for members and groups of 10 or more. Special Performances: Audio descriptive services from Audio Journal provided at 1 p.m. Jan. 19 show. ASL interpretation provided on at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 19 show. Contact the box office at (877) 571-SHOW (7469) for more information.
Book by Chazz Palminteri. Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Glenn Slater. Based on the play by Chazz Palminteri. Tour Direction by Stephen Edlund. Original Choreography by Sergio Trujillo, recreated by Brittany Conigatti. Music Supervision and Arrangements by Ron Melrose. Orchestrations by Doug Besterman. Music Coordinator John Mezzio. Music Direction by David Aaron Brown.
Cast Includes: Jeff Brooks, Nick Fradiani, Alec Nevin, Kayla Jenerson, Stefanie Londino, George Vickers V, Anthony Gianni, Trey Murphy, Martin Bonventre, Hallie Brevetti, Lauren Celentano, Tyler Dema, Bryan Dougherty, Harrison Drake, Adam Grabau, Mairys Joaquin, Breia Kelley, Christopher Miles, Brett Federon, Daniel Rosenbaum, Mark Sippel, Johanna Taylor, Joey Trombino, Darius Vines, Rhys Williams, Nathan Wright.
“A Bronx Tale,” now playing at the Hanover Theatre, is billed as “Jersey Boys” meets “West Side Story.” However, the musical has such a multitude of elements that it recalls a number of other shows, as well.
In fact, the show could easily be billed as “Jersey Boys” meets “West Side Story” meets “Newsies” meets “Rocky” and then, unfortunately, ultimately collides with “Saturday Night Fever the Musical.”
The show is based on the 1993 movie of the same name written by Oscar-nominee Chazz Palminteri and which co-starred Palminteri with Robert De Niro, who directed.
The story is based on Palminteri’s true life story as he grew up on the stoops of the Bronx in the 1960s. As the show begins, there is a doo-wop quartet harmonizing around a street lamp, certainly reminiscent of “Jersey Boys.”
There are so many positive and praiseworthy aspects to the show it is hard to pinpoint exactly where it goes wrong, but it does and spectacularly so.
However, focusing on the positives first, where it goes right is in the performances, as every single cast member gives their level best.
Calogero or “C” (played as a kid at this performance by Trey Murphy and as an adult by Alec Nevin), is a son caught between the honest, hard working bus driver father he loves, Lorenzo (Nick Fradiani), and the neighborhood gangster, Sonny (Jeff Brooks), whose power he respects and admires.
Nevin is clothed reminiscent of a young “Rocky Balboa” wearing a leather jacket and dark colored stingy-brim wool fedora throughout most of the show. He also comes across sometimes like the character Tony Manero from “Saturday Night Fever” which had a cringe-worthy musical adaptation. We’ll come back to that later.
Nevin is very charismatic on stage and does well functioning both as “C” carrying the bulk of the show’s best songs in the first act and serving as narrator of the story.
Fradiani is a fine counter to Brooks portraying Lorenzo as the moral compass of the story and trying desperately to keep his son away from Sonny’s influence.
But it is Brooks as “Sonny” who is thoroughly dominating on stage, fully embracing the character and providing many of the show’s best moments.
Also worthy of high praise is Kayla Jenerson as “C”’s love interest, Jane, who has some of the show’s best songs in the second act.
All give dynamic performances. Young Murphy has an astounding vocal range which is showcased well in the Alan Menken score, especially in the song “Look to Your Heart” with Fradiani and with the ensemble in “I Like It.”
The ensemble provides numerous inventive, high-energy dance numbers (a la “West Side Story”) from the beginning of the show based on Original Choreography by Sergio Trujillo and recreated by Brittany Conigatti.
The intricate set design by Beowulf Boritt filled the entire Hanover stage with very little wasted space, although, occasionally, it was so heavy on scaffolding it was reminiscent of the Broadway adaptation of “Newsies the Musical.”
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)