A Bronx Tale: One Man, 18 Roles
Talk about an actor “owning” a role… Chazz Palminteri gives new meaning to the phrase.
Bronx-born Palminteri, a character actor with more than 50 movies to his credit, is well known for his tough-guy portrayals in numerous films and television series. But when this Renaissance man steps into character for performances of “A Bronx Tale,” it’s a whole ’nuther story.
Palminteri wrote the story, which is based loosely on his own experiences growing up in a gritty Bronx neighborhood, and plays all 18 roles in the one-man show he’ll bring to The Paramount for two nights only, Nov. 1 and 2. The Sybil-like juggling act has brought the actor critical acclaim since he first starting performing it off-Broadway in 1989. It also brought an opportunity to bring the characters to the big screen.
“A Bronx Tale” is the semi-autobiographical story of a boy growing up in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood that is controlled by a personable mafia Don. The principal character, Calogero Anello, is 9 years old when he witnesses a murder carried out at the behest of the mafia Don. The boy, whose own father struggles to keep his son on the straight and narrow, keeps the Don’s secret. Despite his father’s efforts to shield him from the mob influences that dominate the neighborhood, Calogero maintains a long, friendly relationship with the Don.
Without giving away the story, let’s just say “A Bronx Tale” is about the conflict of man’s dual natures – good and evil – and loyalty.
“I wrote it out of desperation because I wanted people to know who I am,” Palminteri said in a phone interview this week, adding that people relate to the archetypes – good people who make bad choices, and vice versa. “It’s an impactful story that I wrote from my heart.”
When Palminteri brought his play to Los Angeles, he became a hot property. But his insistence that he write the screenplay and play the role of Sonny, the mobster, cost him a deal. Until Robert DeNiro came along, that is. The story goes that DeNiro saw the show and secured it for his own directorial debut. Palminteri completed the screenplay, and on DeNiro’s insistence, played his chosen role opposite DeNiro himself.
Released in 1993, the film “A Bronx Tale” was a critical and commercial success. Palminteri’s career skyrocketed, with roles in Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway” and the acclaimed play “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui,” where he starred with Al Pacino, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and Billy Crudup.
Palminteri has also reprised the one-man play, so that a new generation of Americans can learn its archetypical lessons, particularly 13- to 14-year-olds, who are daily faced with the consequences of good and bad decisions.
As for that 18-character juggling act audiences will encounter in his one-man show, Palmeteri said, “I can’t explain it. DeNiro called it the best one-man show he’s ever seen. You just have to come see it.”
Palminteri received the 1996 Leadership in Entertainment Award from the Coalition of Italo-American Associations and was honored by President Clinton with a Special Achievement Award for the Performing Arts from the National Italian American Foundation in Washington, D.C.
He brings the role – or should we say roles – on a tour that will land him at The Paramount in Huntington Nov. 1 and 2.