Family First

Family First

‘Bronx Tale’ one for the good fellas


Courtesy Photo
“A Bronx Tale” is showing at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville through March 3. The Broadway Book Club for this show is reading “Gangland New York: The Faces and Places of Mob History” by Anthony DeStefano and will meet at 6 p.m. March 4.

Richard Blake had his work cut out for him when he stepped into the role of Lorenzo in “A Bronx Tale.” The Broadway musical, based on true events from actor Chazz Palminteri’s life, was first a one-man show on Broadway, then a 1993 film before it returned to the stage as a musical in 2016.

Palminteri; Jerry Zaks, Tony winner and director of the one-man show; composer Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin”); lyricist Glenn Slater (“The Little Mermaid,” “School of Rock”), choreographer Sergio Trujillo (“Guys and Dolls,” “On Your Feet!”) and director Robert De Niro were all in the room at Blake’s audition.

“I just walked in and said, ‘Well, this isn’t an intimidating room at all, is it?’” the actor recalls. “And then to add a step further, I’m being directed by the guy who made the role famous in the movie, who also just happens to be the Robert De Niro, just one of the biggest movie stars of any generation.”

De Niro made his directorial debut with the film, in which he portrayed Palminteri’s real life father, Lorenzo. Co-directing the Broadway musical with Zaks, De Niro focused on the little details that would make the story believable as he guided Blake through the role as Broadway’s first Lorenzo.

“He is so focused on the authenticity and the specifics — how you would carry your lunchbox, how you stand. To be authentic about the way these people in the ’60s lived and the difference between a working class guy and a mobster, how they carry themselves and all those little details are what he’s so, so good at,” Blake reveals.

After nearly two years on Broadway and the launch of the first national tour, Blake is still the show’s only Lorenzo. He wasn’t done telling this story, he shares. At 9 years old, Palminteri witnessed a murder outside of his apartment committed by a local Italian mobster. The mobster and his seductive world of crime, money and power fascinates Palminteri and his honest, hard-working father Lorenzo battles to keep his son away from that life.

“Lorenzo is important to me. He was a wonderful man, and the kind of father that I aspire to be,” Blake says. “I’m a father of a 7-year-old son. Getting to inhabit this person I think has actually helped me be a better dad. As artists, we try and draw from our personal lives because that’s our sense memory. Being a father myself, these relationships and situations, they come up. And I now am informed. My son, when we started, was 3 years old. So my relationship with my real life son has informed the show, and the show has informed what kind of situations I’m going to have with my son and now how I deal with them.

“There’s a responsibility,” Blake adds, “to do justice to someone who actually was alive and meant something to the people involved. I take that very seriously. It’s one of the things I love about getting to play this role is actually that responsibility.”

The other specific joy Blake points to in being part of “A Bronx Tale” is the audiences. The show, he explains, attracts demographics that vary from the crowd make-up one usually sees at a stage musical. Even in New York during the show’s run on Broadway, Blake recalls the amount of people he met for whom this show was their first experience stepping into a theater, ever.

“If you’re a guy who’s never seen a Broadway show, and never had a desire to see a Broadway show, this is the show to come to,” he says. It’s not that women won’t want to see it, he assures, but, “it’s a testosterone-driven show. It’s about gangsters, but it’s not ‘Guys and Dolls.’ This is a real culture, these are real people, and it’s tough, it’s gritty.

“It’s also very beautiful. At the end of the day, the story is about family. And that’s, I think, the biggest draw. All of these tough guys around the world, they love their family.”



‘A Bronx Tale’

WHEN — 8 p.m. March 1; 2 & 8 p.m. March 2; 2 p.m. March 3

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $38-$77

INFO — 443-5600,,

FYI — Marley’s Pizzeria is the official pizzeria of “A Bronx Tale” and will provide food to be used in the show at each performance.

Categories: In The News