The Broadway smash-hit, 'A Bronx Tale,'will take you on a tour of the entire borough – but in fact, this coming-of-age musical made its world premiere in New Jersey! The show was born at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, Essex County.
This autobiographical story was based on the life of Chazz Palminteiri and was directed by Robert Deniro. The narrative dates back to the 1960's on the stoops of Belmont Avenue. The plot focuses on a young boy named, Calogero and his growning pains. He is caught between the father he loves and the mob boss he would love to be. Richard Blake, who plays Calogero’s father, Lorenzo, is a Jersey Boy himself.
"I think this is a story about family at its core and a boy torn between being pulled in different directions. That's going to be relevant in any neighborhood," explains actor Richard Blake. He continues, "As a person that resides in Jersey and has for a very, very long time, I think that family is really important especially in the neighborhood I'm in."
Lorenzo preaches the straight and narrow path as he competes with Sonny, for the role of chief mentor to his son. Young Calogero battles with himself to determine which role model best suits his future.
Blake continues, "I'm a father myself of a young boy, so I actually can relate to this. I know what I want for my child. My son is a bit younger, but I get where Lorenzo is coming from."
Another actor in the musical has a New Jersey connection. Paul Salvatoriello , better known as Sonny's bodyguard, "Tony-10-to-2 , was born in Bayonne.
Paul suggests that, "Belmont Avenue in the Bronx is just like Bloomfield Avenue in Newark! Theres' just so many Italian-American communities in Jersey. There's that feeling of baking, bread, and garlic and all the smells of italian food. In this tight-knit neighborhood, you get that feeling. So, when you come to 'A Bronx Tale,' you get that vibe right away."
Other classics such as ‘Newsies’ and ‘Bandstand,’ that also originated from the Paper Mill in New Jersey ended up getting picked up on Broadway. 'A Bronx Tale' recently celebrated their 500th performance!
"The Paper Mill has been around for almost 80 years," explains Executive Director, Mark Hoebee. "We've been very lucky to have a storied existence for almost 80 years, which is practically unheard of. It really is New Jerseyans that keep us alive and kicking!"
I asked, "What makes this musical stand out from any other?"
Richard Blake responded, "Well for starters, we broke many records at Paper Mill. Performing at Paper Mill is such a profound spot."
'A Bronx Tale' is on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre. Tickets are available online or can be purchased at the box office. For the entire interview that aired on television, visit the link:
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