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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “One man, 18 characters”

    One man, 18 characters

    Before the curtains rise on “”A Bronx Tale,”” actor Chazz Palminteri’s semi-autobiographical account of life growing up around the idiosyncratic intersection of East 187th and Belmont, a friendly reminder resounds from the Tucson Convention Center’s PA system: “”Tape recorders, photography and letting cell phones ring are prohibited, and violators will be beaten over the head with a baseball bat.”” As the audience laughs uneasily, the house lights fade and the dulcet sounds of doo-wop music start to echo in the darkness. With the theater practically pitch-black, the curtains rise to reveal a single man, tapping his toes and snapping his fingers beneath a single spotlight. Though his back is to the audience, his presence is overpowering. A more fitting introduction to the one-man tour-de-force to come could not be asked for.

    Chazz may be alone on stage for the entire show, but his presence is as large as an ensemble cast. Throughout the one-man odyssey of life among wise guys, Palminteri plays 18 separate characters, sometimes taking on the roles of five different players simultaneously. Aside from Chazz himself (who is represented first as 9, then 17 years old), Palminteri plays his chief role models in life: his much-loved father, and his much-feared mobster mentor, Sonny. Thrown into the mix are a cadre of quirky wise guys, introduced with enthusiasm as Eddie Mush, Frankie Coffee-Cake, Charlie Pizza and Jo Jo the Whale (a man so obese “”you don’t walk with him, you walk among him””) to name just a few.

    Chazz gives each character, no matter how insignificant, their own unique mannerisms and energy, never letting the audience become confused as to who exactly he’s supposed to be. As Sonny, he straightens his pants incessantly and conducts grandiose social operations using only three fingers; as himself at seventeen, he bobs his knees and wriggles his arms awkwardly around others; and as Jo Jo the Whale, he hurls his weight backwards and groans girthsomely. Such subtle differences, each imbued with Palminteri’s own perky passion, make this show the comic, dramatic joyride it is.
    “”The saddest thing in life is wasted talent”” Chazz quotes his father early in the show. He should be pleased to know that his son has lived up to these words expertly.

    “”A Bronx Tale”” is playing at the Tucson Convention Center until Feb. 1.

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