By Harry Haun
26 Oct 2007

Pantoliano arrived in a state of upsetment, fresh from a domestic trauma ("My dog killed my cat"), but gamely soldiered on out of loyalty and friendship for Palminteri. He doesn't know when he'll be doing theatre again, but his hat is off to Rosie Perez, his co-star in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, who has just returned in The Ritz. "Theatre requires so much concentration and energy," he said. "It's gotta have at least five cast members in it before I do a play again. Poor Chazz. How does he do a one-man show?"

Vincent Pastore (a.k.a. "Big Pussy") fulfilled his contract via an 11th-hour arrival with the retired heavyweight champion from London, Lennox Lewis, perhaps to keep the excuses to a minimum. "I just got off work," Pastore said sheepishly. "We're doing something here in the city." Is it a movie or a TV show?, he was asked. "It's a secret."

Stephen Baldwin, upholding the family code of arms for his announced-but-AWOL bros Alec and William, also arrived late, and he had an alibi in hand: "I was working but I'll catch the show later. I'm shooting 'Celebrity Apprentice' with Donald Trump for NBC."

Michael Rispoli, who started acting in New York with the Willow Creek troupe (along with Linda Powell, who just opened this week in The Overwhelming), is planning a return to the stage the stage owned by fellow "Sopranos" player Michael Imperioli, Studio Dante. "It's a play called A Night With Jimmy Breslin: A Column in Two Acts," Rispoli revealed. "I play Jimmy, and we have two female actors playing a variety of roles, walking in and out. We're workshopping it right now, and we'll be opening in April."

Castelluccio proved to be a particularly grateful first-nighter. "I didn't see the show 18 years ago, and I always felt I was missing something in my life because of it," he said, "so when Chazz brought it back and put it on Broadway, I couldn't be happier. I loved every minute of it. The characters were beautifully realized, and I just love the story it tells."

He confessed he found a lot of common ground in the play, "having a great relationship with my father, kinda knowing that life a little bit, growing up in a neighborhood where there a lot of questionable types. Paterson, NJ around 21st Avenue was just like growing up in the Bronx, so I related to a lot of the things that Chazz was talking about."

Rocco DiSpirito, who cooks on The Food Network, was another county heard from specifically: Jamaica, Queens. "I identified with these characters since I grew up in a neighborhood very similar to the one here a very working-class neighborhood, full of temptation. Every day we walked out of the house, there were good paths and bad paths."

The star, if not award-winning scene-stealer, of "Mean Streets" Harvey Keitel was very much in attendance, startling people with the news that he's headed for Carnegie Hall (i.e., to play Jerry Springer in Jerry Springer The Opera Jan. 29 and 30, a two-performance run which could well open the door for a Broadway engagement.)

He had to think a while if he had ever acted with Palminteri before, and then he decided that he hadn't but they have been pals for years. In that same boat was Steve Guttenberg, who really laid it on thick: "I just love and admire Chazz so much. He's one of the mentors of my life. He's a Class-A actor, and he's a Class-A person."

Another who was there as a "big fan" was "The Nanny" herself, Fran Drescher. "I never saw the play, but I love the movie," she said. "You know what's great about an actor having a one-man show like this? He can do it till his dying day. It's a story he could tell because it's in flashback. It's a memory. He could be an old man telling the same story."

A Bronx Tale is, indeed, a past that gives to the present and can give to the future.