BY DANIEL BUBBEO
Chazz Palminteri seems to follow “A Bronx Tale” wherever it appears on Long Island. In March 2022, he showed up when the musical played the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, and on Sunday he popped in at the CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale where the show runs for one more weekend.
“He’s very attached to it. It’s all based on a true story that happened to him,” said John Mazzarella, who co-directed CM’s production with Anthony Arpino. Palminteri not only wrote the book for the 1960s-set musical about Calogero, a Bronx lad who idolizes a mob boss, but he also wrote the screenplay and played the gangster in the 1993 movie starring Robert De Niro and Lillo Brancato that inspired the musical.
The actor learned of the show when someone at CM contacted his friend Sandy Favuzzi. When Palminteri didn’t come opening weekend, the folks at CM assumed he wasn’t coming, so his appearance on Sunday was a pleasant surprise, Mazzarella added.
Palminteri watched the show from a VIP area located in the rear of the theater. At the curtain call, he joined the cast onstage and remarked on how much he enjoyed the show and shared his thoughts on the importance of supporting live theater.
“He spoke to the entire cast, he took individual pictures, he really took his time. He wasn’t just in and out,” said Mazzarella. “We’re a community theater and he couldn’t get over that. He was impressed by the cast, sound, lighting and the scene changes.”
One cast member the actor was especially impressed with was Louis Bianco V, who plays Calogero, a character based on Palminteri. “He was such a generous man. He told me ‘terrific, terrific job,’ ” about his performance, said Bianco, 20, a musical theater student at SUNY Cortland from Deer Park. Palminteri also offered the aspiring actor some professional advice.
“He said that in this industry, they’re not looking for the college you went to. Then he referenced himself, [composer] Alan Menken and De Niro, and said, ‘When we’re hiring, we’re looking for your talent, are you easy to work with, and are you kind and respectful.’ ”
Meeting Palminteri, 71, was especially meaningful for Bianco after seeing him in “A Bronx Tale: A One-Man Show” at The Paramount in Huntington in June. “When I met him,” Bianco said, “I told him ‘I just want to say it’s been an honor being granted this role and being able to tell this story.’ ”