It worked for Whoopi Goldberg, John Leguizamo, Lilly Tomlin, and Eric Bogosian. So why wouldn’t it work for Chazz Palminteri? What worked for Palminteri and the other aforementioned actors is the “one man show.” A talented and creative actor writes and performs a “one (wo)man show” and it propels them to stardom. While Palminteri wasn’t a complete unknown before writing and performing his one man show, A Bronx Tale, the venerated production certainly jump started his movie career.
A Bronx Table debuted in Los Angeles in 1990. Later that year, Palminteri moved his show to New York City where it had a successful off-Broadway run. Actor Robert De Niro saw the show and was so enamored with Palminteri’s creation that he offered to buy the film rights. Palminteri said he would sell as long as he could write the script and star in the movie. De Niro agreed to those terms and quickly turned the play into the first cinematic directing gig of his career. The film was released in 1993 and unlike its theatrical counterpart the movie was not a one-man affair.
Palminteri revived his solo-show in 2007. This time A Bronx Tale ran on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre. The show premiered on Oct. 25, 2007 and closed Feb. 24, 2008 (108 performances). It was such a hit that Palminteri followed it up with a national tour.
Like most one man shows, A Bronx Tale is autobiographical. The main character isn’t named Chazz Palminteri but “Calogero Anello.” The boy is caught between the morality and working class ethic of his father and the allure of the Mafia—in particular a local mob boss who eventually becomes another “father figure.” Palminteri was inspired to write the play after he was fired from his job as a bouncer.