From a play to a film to a Broadway show, “A Bronx Tale” is not to be missed!
Since its release in 1993, “A Bronx Tale” has been considered one of the greatest gangster films every made. Naturally, this was the perfect story to add a bit of song and dance. What could go wrong? Well, instead of a theatergoer’s worst nightmare of gangsters prancing around on stage with a gun in one hand and a drink in another, this musical used the music to highlight the most poignant parts of the story and left the drama intact for a major thrill and tearjerker of a show.
The brilliant minds behind the film, Robert De Niro and Chazz Palminteri, both took a creative role in the production, with De Niro as Co-Director and Palminteri as the Book Writer. Add in the iconic Alan Menken (the composer behind almost every Disney movie since 1989) and Glenn Slater (the lyricist behind “Tangled” and “Galavant”) and you’re destined to have an absolute masterpiece on your hands.
As of December 1st, “A Bronx Tale” survived a year on Broadway and is still going strong. We talked to Christiani Pitts, who plays the lead role and love interest, Jane; Nick Cordero, who plays the mob boss, Sonny; and William Ivey Long, the head of costume design and Broadway legend behind the wardrobe in “Chicago”, “The Producers”, “Grey Gardens”, and “Hairspray”, just to name a few. We took a tour of William’s studio in Tribeca to take a look at his original sketches, and interviewed Christiani and Nick backstage at the Longacre Theatre. Christiani reveals how she changed her mindset when promoted from the chorus to the lead, Nick reveals what really drew him to the role, and William talks about working with De Niro and the intricate details involved in this production’s costumes.
A Conversation with Christiani Pitts
“A Bronx Tale” is your Broadway debut. How has that changed your life?
It was nice, a smooth transition. It’s so crazy, too. Everyone was so supportive.
When did you find out you were going up from the chorus to the role of Jane?
It was about a month before I went up. Everyone from the creative team was so casual about it. I was freaking out! A month went by figuring out what I could contribute and what makes her different for me. Then it was go time!
How has it changed the way you perform now that you’re a lead?
It’s definitely changed the way I viewed what I was doing. Starting as Denise, a character in the ensemble, my goal was to figure out where I fit in the world, and how I could help progress Jane. I realized more eyes were on me and my development. It was scary because I wasn’t used to it being about me. So that has changed the way I look at trying to perform it, not in a selfish way, but to make sure I stand out and make sure my presence is there.
Jane is sweet and smart, but also very aware of the prejudice that exists between the neighborhoods. It takes a lot of strength to break free from the status quo. How did you tap into that?
It has definitely, and unfortunately, not been very difficult. Any time I step out into the real world, I’m forced to look at myself in the mirror and realize that I am a black woman and responsible for fixing what’s happening right now. Unfortunately, it’s not hard to get back here and do a period piece and hear things that you can hear on the news. The timing is unreal.
What do you love about playing Jane?
So many things. I love that she’s very sweet and kind, but she is completely aware of who she is. She knows her world in the Bronx is against her, and if she doesn’t stand up for what she believes in, than nothing will ever happen. That is so brave and so much braver than I was. I like doing [the role] because it’s not who I was; it’s fun figuring out where the strength comes from in a 17-year-old girl.
What do you think the audience can learn from Jane?
I think the audience can learn that you have to know who you are so that no one can tell you anything different. Who you are is perfectly enough. What anyone has to say about that, it’s their own insecurities.
Has playing Jane helped you learn anything about yourself?
Yes, it’s helped me learn a great deal of confidence that I never thought was missing. I thought I felt good about myself, but in rehearsals, when they were trying to get me to break out, I realized I much more enjoyed supporting someone else. I didn’t feel like I was good enough to do [the lead]. Playing this role has made me feel like I am enough.
How do you think the clothes make Jane come to life?
First of all, they’re gorgeous! Oh my goodness. I love that they are so completely in line with Jane’s journey. She just blossoms in that blue dress. That’s a dress she has not taken out of the closet, [waiting for something] special. At the end, her burgundy dress is so mature and so strong; at the end, that’s where her head is.
What has been your favorite part about the “Bronx Tale” experience?
One hundred percent, the people on and off stage. It blows my mind. From the moment I walk in the building, to the fans at the stage door, everyone is so invested in the process. In rehearsals, everyone is so great and kind, [especially] when you get to these moments where we have to express severe racial tension. To see the way that everyone handles it so professionally and make sure we have conversations before and after, that we’re on one accord, that we’re doing a job, and that we’re a family. It sets a precedent for the rest of the process.
De Niro was the kindest and we’ve just been so blessed to have this pocket of people that are so compassionate and care about the work so much. I know I’ll be able to take this on to whatever my next project is. I may not get it [again], but at least I know I had it.
“For every black girl out there, from me to you. Keep shining bright, stay happy stay true. And if you aren’t a black girl, find the magic in your heart. It’s the differences in people that turn love to art!” ❤️—Raja Smith #Freida #Jane #Denise @bronxtalemusical • • • • The ladies of Webster Ave. are smiling from ear to ear thanks to our cartoon stickers made by @princess_hayden. #BlackGirlMagic in FULL effect. Thank you queen 👑