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Palminteri brings his borough to life in ‘A Bronx Tale’

After decades of gangster movies, “The Sopranos” and endless rap songs, you would think that the tough-guy world of the “made” man would have been played out, but Chazz Palminteri proves there’s still gold to be mined from that particular vein in “A Bronx Tale,” playing this week at the State Theatre in Minneapolis.

Palminteri — you’d recognize him from any of the dozens of film and TV roles he’s had through the years — dug into his history for the show, which was first mounted in the 1980s, then brought to the big screen (co-starring Robert De Niro). He now has revisited the work with a successful Broadway and tour revival.

The scene for this one-man show is the Bronx — the corner of 187th and Belmont to be exact — where a young Palminteri spent his days as a youth. After witnessing a murder at age 9, he is befriended by Sonny, the neighborhood boss. Like any child, Palminteri is dazzled by Sonny’s life and soon falls under the man’s spell, even as his own hard-working father tries to keep him out of trouble. The show reaches its climax eight years later, when a teenage Palminteri faces a string of tough situations and decisions, and the life Sonny led comes back to finally ask its toll.

Though the show deals with plenty of serious situations — from murder right on down to larceny, battery and racism — Palminteri treats it all with a deft touch. While the adult narrator has a clear eye on what happened, he is able to inhabit his 9-year-old and teenage selves. He also brings to life the quite colorful characters of the neighborhood, including Sonny, his rogue’s gallery and Palminteri’s own friends.

Freely mixing one-liners with heartfelt stories and sometimes-tough memories, “A Bronx Tale” brings a piece of a different world to the somewhat staid Twin Cities. Yet the audience never feels like mere tourists — instead, Palminteri brings us to his world, and then brings it fully to life.

“A Bronx Tale,” presented by the Hennepin Theatre District, runs through Sunday at the State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. Tickets are $24 to $57. For information and tickets, call 1-800-982-2787 or visit online.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Brad Richason on 06/03/2009 - 01:29 pm.

    Saw it last night and was absolutely blown away. Chazz Palminteri really breathes the material, embodying these characters for the duration of the production. It’s an immersive performance that feels remarkably true to life and cliche free – impressive considering the gangster element.

    If interested, my whole review is here: http://www.examiner.com/x-1348-Twin-Cities-Performance-Art-Examiner~y2009m6d3-Review-A-Bronx-Tale-vividly-depicts-growing-up-under-the-gun

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