A late congratulations, since A BRONX TALE marks your Broadway debut!! What was that moment like when you first stepped out on the Longacre stage in front of an audience?
It was truly a dream come true. I had been thinking about it since I was 10 years old, so it was almost surreal. And it was a series of "first moments"; the first time on the stage during tech, the first preview, and of course opening night. It's everything I dreamed it would be and more.
How did you get your start in theater?
Well I was Wilbur in my elementary school production of Charlottes Web, but it wasn't until 6th grade that I realized I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I did a play called Front Street. It's about an Italian American family in Hartford, CT. My sister was played by Domenica Cameron Scorsese, Martin Scorsese's daughter, who was in college at Wesleyan University at the time. Back stage, her and Dan Adler who played my brother, began to teach me about the business and I was hooked. I did my first union shows in high school when I interned for the River Rep company at the Ivoryton Playhouse.
In A BRONX TALE you play JoJo the Whale, one of Sonny's gang members. You get to eat pizza and cannolis on stage each night! What could be better!? What is currently your favorite moment in the show?
It's not a bad gig, getting to eat on stage. Sometimes, on two Show days, I won't even buy lunch or dinner because I'm full from my stage food. There are so many moments I love in the show. I love Roll Em because I think it perfectly captures the scene from the movie, in musical theater form. And I actually share my pizza with Eddie Mush while we are in the bathroom.
Had you seen the movie or Chazz's solo production of A BRONX TALE prior to auditioning or starting rehearsals? If so, how did that affect the way you prepared for auditioning and actually working on the show?
I had seen the movie, but I definitely rewatched it when the audition came along. It helped to get a feel for the world. Working on a musical is totally different from film so you don't try to recreate it, but it definitely set the tone. Chazz actually arranged for us to see his one man show when he did it in Atlantic City during rehearsals. That was amazing. Hearing the story from the source and seeing his passion was very inspiring.
What drew you to the project before Broadway, and what was the audition process like?
I mean, what didn't draw me to this project! It is an amazing story, with an all star creative team, at a prestigious regional theater (Paper Mill Playhouse), with the hope of a Broadway future. It's a dream job. Plus I knew I was a good fit for this part. I went through 5 rounds of auditions including a harmonizing round, a dance call, and an audition for the entire creative team. It was almost three weeks from my first audition to booking it.
You were also a member of the Papermill Playhouse cast of A BRONX TALE. Do you mind explaining the process of transferring from Papermill to Broadway?
My experience wasn't much of a process. We ended our run at Paper Mill in March. Then I moved on to the next project. I did a couple TV gigs and a feature film. The show was actually announced as transferring to Broadway before i knew if I was going with it. After a week or so of my manager telling me to calm down and sit tight, i got the offer to go to Broadway. Rehearsals started up in September.
This creative team is led by some of the greats, Robert DiNiro, Chazz Palmiteri, Sergio Trujillo, and Alan Menken. Have they given you any pieces of advice while working on A BRONX TALE that continuously stick out in your mind?
So many greats. There is the amazing Jerry Zak's who co directed with Bob as well. You learn so much just by being around these greats and watching how they work and just act as people. Despite all of his success, Chazz is one of the kindest most generous people I've met. I think there are lessons to be gleaned just by that behavior. One thing that Jerry says a lot is "keep your humor". I think it's a good mantra. A reminder to remain positive and supportive and happy even through hard times. I feel like I've learned so much from this experience that it's hard to boil down. From Bob De Niro I learned it's more insulting to slap someone than punch them. Just so many lessons.
Are there any pre-show rituals that either you or the cast do on a nightly basis?
Hudson, who plays Young C, goes around giving the whole cast hugs and singing a "before show hugs" song he made up. That's the only nightly pre show ritual I can think of. I spin each way to make sure that move is there, do the twist a bit, and I'm ready to go.
This show has some catchy tunes!! Which song from A BRONX TALE gets stuck in your head the most?
It's a tie between "I Like It" and "One Of The Great Ones"
You've had a bunch of notable guests at the show already! Who has been your favorite guest at the show so far?
It's so incredible to meet these icons. It's an honor to meet them all, but getting a big hug from Patti LuPone was pretty special. She said she was jealous that I got to eat pizza on stage. She couldn't have been sweeter.
You have also done some television, do you prefer doing theater versus television or visa-versa?
I just love working. There are similarities and differences between the mediums and I honestly love it all.
What was the first show you saw live?
Les Miserables on Broadway. I was about 10.
What's your favorite show?
Oh so many. I love Hairspray. I got to play Edna once regionally and would love to do it again.
Oh so many, lol. Probably lasagna or prime rib. Chazz also has this mushroom ravioli with black truffle cream sauce at his restaurant that is to die for.
Favorite cast recording / album?
I'll go with Jesus Christ Super Star, cause I used to jump around my parents living room, singing along to the record.
Favorite memory of doing A BRONX TALE thus far?
So many memories from this experience. I'd say my favorite has to be the time we were at Chazz's house for Sunday dinner, and Alan Menken sat down at the piano and played and sang us a private concert of his greatest hits for like half an hour. As far as doing the show, every night being on Broadway is a great memory.
Memorable stage door experience?
The first time coming out and being asked for pictures and autographs is pretty surreal. The fans of this show are all so great so it's nice meeting everyone. My favorite is when I get a loud wise guy "eeeh" from the crowd. That's fun.
Lastly, why should audiences come see A BRONX TALE?
Because it's a beautiful story with universal themes. As a lyric in the show says "it's the kind of tale that makes you laugh and cry".
To get tickets to A BRONX TALE on Broadway visit http://abronxtalethemusical.com/.
A Look Back