A Bronx Tale – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

One incident in a person’s life, lasting only moments, can have a profound effect on his future. Just ask playwright and actor Chazz Palminteri who experienced such a cataclysmic event many decades ago.

When Chazz was a nine year old boy sitting innocently on a cement stoop in front of his Bronx home, he witnessed a murder. He saw two men fighting five feet in front of him, ostensibly over a parking space, when a third man stepped in to help his pal. He killed his friend’s opponent and, thus, rescued his friend. The police, no matter how they tried, couldn’t get Chazz, who was called by his given name Calogero, to testify.

The lad Calogero is captured winningly by Carlos Velasquez Escamilla while his older self comes to brilliant life in Christopher Rosa Cruz. The pair are wonderful as Chazz, telling his incredible story with sweeping power, as does the entire talented cast.

In the midst of this devastating encounter, Chazz’s eyes meet those of the stranger’s, who turns out to be Sonny, the capo di tutti capi, or “boss of all bosses” or godfather if you prefer. Joe Barbara is strong and magnetic and dominant as Sonny. The young impressionable lad soon finds himself swept into a different and exciting world that Sonny commands, into a fancy club, fetching coffee and cutting lemons and limes, rolling dice and collecting tips. Chazz’s father, a caring Robert Lomberto, a hardworking bus driver, does not approve of his son’s new associates, nor does his loving mother Marissa Follo Perry. When Sonny tries to give him a lucrative job, he refuses. Soon “C” as he is now called becomes Sonny’s “penance, something good to leave behind.”

Chazz is now influenced by two father figures. His dad Lorenzo gives him a card that states “Don’t waste your talent,” while Sonny teaches him life lessons like “It’s better to be feared than to be loved” and “Never underestimate your enemy.” You are invited to enter Chazz’s world courtesy of Waterbury’s Seven Angels Theatre with “A Bronx Tale The Musical” coming to town until Sunday, May 19. The new musical features a book by Chazz Palminteri, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater, all based on Chazz’s original play.

Follow “C” as he grows up in the Italian section of the Bronx on Belmont Street surrounded by a crew of criminals, learns about women, falls in love with a girl from the colored side of town, a sweet Jane in the hands of Briana Maia, and in the process becomes a man. Tunes like “Belmont Avenue,” “I Like It,” “Nicky Machiavelli,” and “The Choices We Make” help tell his story.

According to the playwright, Chazz recalls his early years as an “outrageous time to grow up. I had a great childhood in an Italian neighborhood with happy times, sports and some violence.” Writing about it has proven therapeutic, “a transference of energy from negative to positive.” He is grateful his father lived to see his success.

For tickets ($45), call the Seven Angels Theatre, Plank Road, Hamilton Park, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at SevenAngelsTheatre.org. Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Co-directors Joe Barbara and Janine Molinari beautifully handle the production, while Janine also smoothly manages the choreography, with Mark Ceppetelli providing the musical direction. Support the Pasta Drive for the St. Vincent DePaul Mission of Waterbury with a donation in the lobby.

As for those life lessons, Chazz Palminteri also has learned “family is important” and “stay close to the things you value.” Come see his musical put all these lessons to good use.