“A Bronx Tale” Sings And Dances In To S.F.

By Chris Narloch

If you’re looking for something fun to do this holiday season, I highly recommend that you drive over to San Francisco and check out the festive department store windows around Union Square and have dinner at one of the fine establishments in the Bay Area. (Brenda’s, on Polk Street, is my favorite place to eat in San Francisco.)

Make sure that you do so before December 23, 2018, however, so you can also see the entertaining new musical “A Bronx Tale,” which is currently playing at San Francisco’s SHN Golden Gate Theatre.

 

“A Bronx Tale” is the stage version of a 1993 movie that starred Robert DeNiro and Chazz Palminteri as two men who vie for the heart and soul of a young man growing up in a rough-and-tumble section of the Bronx during the ‘60s.

De Niro, playing against type, was the straight arrow, bus driver dad of the boy, and Palminteri, who based the story on his own childhood, played the local mafia boss who befriends young Calogero, much to the chagrin of his law-abiding father.

The poignant story is not quite as effective in musical form as it was as a play (and then a dramatic motion picture), but I still enjoyed the performance I saw recently in San Francisco, thanks to its superb cast, the exciting choreography by Sergio Trujillo, and dynamite direction by De Niro and the great Jerry Zaks, who helmed the current blockbuster revival of “Hello, Dolly!” with Bette Midler.

Joe Barbara plays Sonny, the mobster, on stage, and Richard H. Blake is equally effective as the character of the dad, Lorenzo. Both actors have the opportunity to shine during the show, but Barbara gets the best song, with Act Two’s “One of the Great Ones.”

The main reason to see the musical, however, is for rising star Joey Barreiro, who plays the grown-up Calogero, our narrator and hero. (Frankie Leoni is also excellent as the young Calogero.)

Sacramento audiences will remember Joey Barreiro as the handsome devil who played the lead in last summer’s Music Circus production of “Newsies,” and he is equally compelling in “A Bronx Tale.”

Barreiro is what I like to call a quadruple-threat talent: he can sing, dance, act, and is very easy on the eyes. In fact, during a scene in “A Bronx Tale” where he gets dressed up for a date and asks another character how he looks, the audience inside the Golden Gate Theatre the evening I attended the production answered his question with loud cheers.

In addition to his good looks, Barreiro also has enough gravitas to make his character’s journey moving, believable and sympathetic. That isn’t always the case with “A Bronx Tale: The Musical” as a whole, which sometimes feels more entertaining than realistic.

Also, I was somewhat disappointed by the musical’s score, which is not as memorable as one would expect, given the fact that it was composed by Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast”) and Glenn Slater (“The Little Mermaid”).

Still, fans of “Jersey Boys” should especially enjoy “A Bronx Tale,” which shares its mafia backdrop and even opens and closes with a doo-wop-dudes-under-a-lamppost scene that is a direct lift from that beloved musical about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

“A Bronx Tale” plays through Dec. 23 at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco. For information, visit www.shnsf.com.

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