Award-winning composer Alan Menken and cast members of the new musical A Bronx Tale visited the Billboard on Broadway podcast to talk about turning actor and writer Chazz Palminteri's perennially popular one-man show into a Broadway musical.
Though the show, which takes place in the 1960s in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx, has a doo-wop-leaning score reminiscent of one of Menken's earliest theatrical successes, Little Shop of Horrors, the composer says he sees A Bronx Tale's score very differently. "It was fun to come back to that world, but this is so different from Little Shop as far as tone," Menken says. "This is the music of the neighborhood." Once he tapped into that idea, he says, his biggest challenge lay in figuring out "how much do we have the voice of Chazz Palminteri in this? 'Cause it is a memory play, to a degree. That's where a lot of development came into this."
Cast members Nick Cordero (Waitress, Bullets Over Broadway), Ariana DeBose (Hamilton) and newcomer Bobby Conte Thornton were thrilled to sign on to a Menken project ("You run, don't walk," Cordero says of hearing of his involvement) and shared stories about the A-list creative team's musical backgrounds. Palminteri, who wrote the book, is "a musical guy," Cordero says. "He constantly talks about West Side Story and Guys and Dolls and how some of their themes are echoed in our show," DeBose adds. And according to Menken, co-director Robert DeNiro "is a fan of musicals."
Chatting with host Rebecca Milzoff, the four discuss the challenges of turning Palminteri's semi-autobiographical, one-man show into a singing-and-dancing production, working with Menken, and their audience's uniquely emphatic reactions to the performances.
Ghostlight Records released A Bronx Tale's original Broadway cast recording digitally today. A Bronx Tale is playing on Broadway now at the Longacre Theatre. Listen to the full episode below or on iTunes, hosted by Rebecca Milzoff, which includes the A Bronx Tale cast's in-office performances of "One of the Great Ones" and "In a World Like This."