A one-man show turned out to have decades of life beyond its beginnings off-Broadway.
And now fans of “A Bronx Tale” can catch its latest iteration — a full-fledged Broadway musical — at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave. Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania will present four performances of the national tour from Friday, Oct. 25, to Sunday, Oct. 27.
Adapted into a hit film of the same name in 1993, “A Bronx Tale” came from the mind of Chazz Palminteri, who based the story on his own experience of growing up in the Bronx. The tale focuses on a young man who befriends a gangster in the 1960s — much to his father’s concern — witnesses a killing and faces the temptation of joining the gangster life. Palminteri originated the autobiographical show as a one-man play, starred in the film alongside Robert De Niro (who also directed), took the one-man show to Broadway and on tour (including to Scranton in 2009), and then brought the musical version to the Great White Way in 2016.
Watching the story progress through its different incarnations has been pretty exciting, Palminteri said recently by phone, noting that he had always thought about turning into a musical.
“I knew it was a great story,” he said. “I said, wow, nothing’s more exciting sometimes when you do it in music. … It’s like operatic. It takes it to another level.”
Palminteri wrote the book for the musical, which also features music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater. De Niro co-directed the show with Jerry Zaks, who directed the one-man play when Palminteri performed it on Broadway in 2007 and 2008.
“(I had) both directors who were there from the beginning, so it was the best of both worlds,” Palminteri said. “Each brought their own instinct.”
The story does deal with serious subject matter, from mob violence to racism, but Palminteri had no qualms about turning it into a musical.
“You know, a great story’s a great story,” he said. “You just have to learn how to tell it in a different way, a more exciting way.”
He reiterated a sentiment he’s shared before when discussing the story: Alfred Hitchcock’s explanation that people can only do three things to an audience — make them laugh, make them cry or scare them. And if they can do two of those, Hitchcock continued, they’ll have a hit.
“In ‘A Bronx Tale,’ we do all three: we make you laugh, we make you cry, and we scare you,” Palminteri said. “People are cheering at the end. Some people are crying. It affects people a lot.
“I watch it, watch the people get moved by it, and that affects me…. Since it’s my life, some moments I get affected by it. All of a sudden just boom! Something will snap and I’m right back there with my dad.”
So many scenes resonate with audiences, he explained, from the attempted bar takeover to when the son talks about the working man. And audiences recognize the show’s messages, with Palminteri pointing out how a lot of parents bring kids 12 and older to see it.
“(The musical) just shows them about not wasting their life and (how) every decision you make has a purpose,” he said.
From that first one-man show performance in 1989, when Palminteri played all 18 characters, to the film to today, his autobiographical story remains full of life.
“I want it to keep going as long as it can,” Palminteri said, noting the show might go to Japan next year. “I think people can learn something from it, about the saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”
If you go
- What: “A Bronx Tale,” presented by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania
- When: Friday, Oct. 25, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 26, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 27, 1 p.m.
- Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
- Details: Tickets cost $37 to $72. For more information or tickets, visit the box office or broadwayinscranton.com or call 570-342-7784.
Caitlin Heaney West is the content editor for Access NEPA and oversees the Early Access blog in addition to working as a copy editor and staff writer for The Times-Tribune. An award-winning journalist, she is a summa cum laude graduate of Shippensburg University and also earned a master’s degree from Marywood University. Caitlin joined the Times-Shamrock family in 2009 and lives in Scranton. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5107; or @cheaneywest