Chazz Palminteri Brings 'A Bronx Tale' The Musical To Chicago

Lisa Fielding
February 27, 2019 - 1:54 pm

A Bronx Tale/Broadway in Chicago

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Chazz Palminteri said his story really began in his old New York neighborhood in 1961 where he witnessed a murder.

"I grew up at 187th and Belmont in the Bronx. I was 9-years old. It's me Calogero, my real name. It happened to me," he recalls.

Later, as a struggling actor, he started writing about his experiences growing up in that neighborhood.

"I started writing about this killing I saw. Each week, I'd write 10 minutes, 10 minutes and I'd perform it on Monday nights. Finally at the end of about 10 months to a year, I had 90 minutes of a one man show," he said.

In 1989, he performed the show for the first time. One night, actor Robert DeNiro attended the show and his life changed forever.

"I performed it and my life exploded. It was never the same. DeNiro walked in, saw the show, came back stage and proposed it move to the big screen. I wrote the screenplay and co-starred in the movie. I never looked back after that," Palminteri said.

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"A Bronx Tale" was then adapted into a musical and debuted at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey on Feb. 4, 2016, before opening on Broadway Dec. 1 later that year. Now it's on a national tour.

"A musical is hard. The hard part is, like in a movie, the scenes and the story are in the words. In a musical, the real meat of the story is in the songs.  A musical is a bear, because there are so many elements, the dancing, the singing, the lights, but when you get it right, there's nothing better," he said.

A Bronx Tale/ Broadway In Chicago

The musical is based on Palminteri's life and it's about a boy who must choose between his family and a career in the mob.

"I performed the one man show on the stage in Chicago about 10 years ago and at the Arcada Theater. Now, I hope to bring this in musical form to a new generation. Some of these 15-16 year old kids loved the movie. They weren't even born when I first wrote this. I urge people to bring your kids, because it says something and inspires them," he said.

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The show features a book by Palminteri and music by Alan Menken, with choreography by Tony-nominee Sergio Trujillo. As on Broadway, it will be directed by two-time Oscar-winner Robert De Niro and four-time Tony Award-winner Jerry Zaks.

"A Bronx Tale," already a play, film and now a musical, what's next? Palminteri said the musical may next go back to the big screen.

"Why not?" he said. "It's a fabulous story about family, love and making the right choices, choices that will shape your life forever. It stands the test of time."

Broadway in Chicago

The Oscar nominated actor has been in 55 films including "Usual Suspects," "Bullets Over Broadway" and "Analyze This." He's also had a recurring role on "Modern Family" and "Blue Bloods." He also directed the HBO series "Oz," but Palminteri admits "A Bronx Tale" will likely always be his legacy.

"This is the first time in the history of show business, nothing went from a play, to a movie, to a musical. I starred in each one of them. I wrote this 30 years ago and here it is. It's still a great story," Palminteri said.

"A Bronx Tale — The Musical” runs at the Nederlander Theatre from March 12-24.

You can listen to the full interview with Chazz Palminteri below.