On the morning of January 17, the members of the creative team behind the new Broadway musical A Bronx Tale sat with TODAY’s Matt Lauer to talk about their collaboration. Oscar nominee Chazz Palminteri, Oscar winner Robert De Niro, Tony winner Jerry Zaks, and legendary music producer Tommy Mottola spoke of the musical’s origins, first as a one-man show performed by Palminteri and directed by Zaks, and then as a film directed by De Niro and starring De Niro and Palminteri.
As the story goes, De Niro came to the see the stage play after hearing the buzz and met with Palminteri to talk about adapting it for the screen. Palminteri had other offers on the table, but ultimately chose De Niro. “ ‘If you do it with me, I’ll make it right,’ ” Palminteri remembers De Niro saying. De Niro made his film directorial debut with the movie about a young Italian-American boy from the Bronx choosing between his earnest father and his mob boss father figure.
Mottola is a lead producer on the musical and spoke of his motivation to bring the show to Broadway. “I had always been connected to it because of Bob and doing the soundtrack with Sony at that time,” he said, “but this amazing coming-of-age story … Bob and I said this has got to be a musical.”
Of course, everyone wants to know: With that much talent in the room, who gets the final say? Many have asked the question, and they seem to skirt the answer, but this morning the definitive answer was Zaks. “He’s been doing the heavy lifting,” said De Niro of his co-director.
Lauer asked the quartet about their feeling of this week’s upcoming inauguration, to which Zaks responded: “It’s human nature to protect the possibility of a happy ending and so we’re going to do everything we can for as long as we can to hope that this story has a happy ending for the country.”
But Palminteri brought it back to his show. “One of the main aspects of the play: Is it better to choose love or fear?” Palminteri explained. “I think that’s why it’s so relevant today.”
The cast of the musical then performed a slightly revised version of the show’s opening number, “Belmont Avenue”—interspersed with choreography from the Act 2 opener “Webster Avenue.” Writing team Alan Menken and Glenn Slater wrote the musical’s music and lyrics, respectively, with choreography by Sergio Trujillo.
A Bronx Tale plays Broadway’s Longacre Theatre. Member of the cast and creative team join BroadwayCon on January 29 for a special panel about the show.