PHOTO CREDIT: Joan Marcus.
This powerful musical about growing up in the Bronx, written and inspired by the life of legendary writer, actor, and director Chazz Palminteri, features direction by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks, songs by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, and choreography by Sergio Trujillo.
In honor of this dynamic show’s closing performance, Camp Broadway is excited to present an interview with three of the original Broadway cast members of A BRONX TALE, as well as with a young actor who made his Broadway debut in the show.
So, check out the wisdom of Bobby Conte Thornton (Calogero), Nick Cordero (Sonny), Richard H. Blake (Lorenzo), and Jonah Mussolino (Young Calogero) about Broadway role models, the daily lives of Broadway stars, and doing what you love!
CB: Theater students are told: ‘follow your passion’ and ‘do what you love,’ and yet are also encouraged to make a good living to afford rent and food, etc. What is your advice to teens about how to balance those two realities and those two conflicting messages?
Bobby Conte Thornton (Calogero): Yeah. If you go down this path, that’s what you’re signing up for: those two realities. But I believe everyone’s path can lead to something remarkable. It’s like when you audition: the healthiest mentality to have going into an audition is: you’re not auditioning to get the job. You’re auditioning just to work with amazing people in a room for ten minutes, and engage with the material, and be open to change and notes and spontaneity and inspiration. Then leave and think: ‘my job here is done.’ And if you get that job, that’s the cherry on top! Now, it’s harder to maintain that mentality when a year has gone by and you haven’t gotten an acting job and you need money to pay rent. It’s not solely about artistry then, it’s about a finding a job.
CB: And so, what’s the next step? Is there a trick to finding a job? Is it luck?
Mr. Thornton: If you’re putting out positive energy, and ‘kind energy,’ and ‘non-complacent energy,’ opportunities tend to arise. It’s not a guarantee. It’s not a “do this and you’ll get it” formula. If it were, everyone would be doing it! But sometimes, magic happens. Keep yourself open to it. I was lucky because there was a track on Broadway where they needed someone who looks 17 and could sing doo-wop and was Italian and didn’t have to be famous. That combination certainly doesn’t happen all the time! But I worked hard, kept a positive attitude, things aligned, and I got it. So, show up for auditions, keep improving your craft, and keep your positivity!
CB: What line in the show do you consider a key inspiration for performing arts students?
Mr. Thornton: Something that Chazz talks about, when he says: “the saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” What that means is that you need to think of your talent as a ‘given’…You have to work it and engage it and help it evolve, but you need to have faith that the answers you need to solve any problem are actually within you. So, believe in yourself, try to make the right choices, and surround yourself with people who support and love you and are giving you tools to succeed. Don’t get distracted by easy emotions like envy and anger and frustration. You just have to have faith that the right thing is gonna happen…. It’s the law of attraction: you put out a certain energy, and suddenly opportunities will come about for you. I’m not saying that roles will be handed to you all the time—but opportunities will happen, chances will come up, so position yourself to get your foot in the door!
CB: What is your advice for teens in regional theater productions who feel like they just need that extra boost to achieve their Broadway dreams?
Nick Cordero (Sonny): I’d say do something just to shake it up! Whatever sort of plateau you feel like you’ve hit in your career… take a risk, do something that is out of your comfort zone a little bit. Essentially, just amp it up a little bit, and think outside of the box, and try not to be in a position where you’re waiting for the phone to ring. Fill your time with creating.
CB: Any specific suggestions on how to do this?
Mr. Cordero: Start writing. Like in a journal. That gives you good ideas about what you really want to achieve and insights about where you need to go in your career. Or, if you come up unsatisfied with the amount of work you’re getting or what kind of work you’re getting, try and create your own—it’s the oldest trick in the book! Write a play. Do a performance piece. Start an improv group. You’ve got to try to empower yourself in your career, so just take a risk!
CB: Who is your Broadway mentor, who inspired you to become a performer?
Richard H. Blake (Lorenzo): You know, I’ve been fortunate to be doing this a long time, and have had the privilege of working with so many Broadway legends. But the first one that comes to mind is Len Cariou… My very first Broadway show was a show called TEDDY AND ALICE, and he played Teddy Roosevelt, and I played his son Archie. And he just was so brilliant, such an amazing actor, and then also such a giving performer… He was so courteous to the fellow actors and also he was not a selfish actor onstage, and I always just wanted to grow up and be like that.
CB: It sounds like Mr. Cariou was not only a mentor, but a role model.
Mr. Blake: Yes. He is my role model. Absolutely, absolutely!
CB: What’s it like to be a kid balancing family and school and friends—and also being on Broadway?
Jonah Mussolino (Young Calogero): Well it’s very exciting, but also very tiring, because you have to do school, and you have to do Broadway at the same time! So you sometimes have to leave school early, and sometimes you have to get tutors.
CB: What’s your advice for kids your age who want to be on Broadway, too?
Jonah Mussolino: You have to work your hardest, and always practice. And yes, you have to go to lots of auditions. Lots!
And Jonah’s father and agent, Anthony Mussolino, gave this advice for kids wanting to be on Broadway:
Mr. Mussolino: Two things: I’d say surround yourself with the talented people in your field—just be near the most talented people in your chosen field, to learn from them. And never give up! Just keep trying!
Take these tips from the pros, Camp Broadway readers: surround yourself with excellent mentors, work hard, and stay positive.
And above all: remember to “Look to Your Heart!”
Camp Broadway wishes the current cast and crew of A BRONX TALE a wonderful closing performance!
Many thanks to Bobby Conte Thornton, Nick Cordero, Richard H. Blake, and Anthony and Jonah Mussolino, from Anna Allport and Camp Broadway, for this thrilling interview opportunity! Special thank-you to Michael Lederman and Roxane Ashe for arranging everything!