Westport’s Adam Kaplan takes over ‘A Bronx Tale’ lead
Published 8:55 am, Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Joining the cast of a Broadway musical that has already been running more than a year is both a blessing and a challenge for an actor.
You have the security of going to work in an established hit, but you have to fit into an ensemble that has been together for many months.
Adam Kaplan, who took over the leading role of Calogero in “A Bronx Tale” last month, says, “You’re the missing puzzle piece that has to fit in. ... Everybody knows where they’re going except you. The show already has a flow so you can’t mess that up. ... The ship has to keep sailing smoothly.”
Calogero plays a dual role, acting as a narrator who tells his story directly to the audience, and then stepping into highly charged scenes showing him growing up on the streets of the Bronx, N.Y., in the 1960s with two very different role models — his hard-working father and the gangster who is the unofficial mayor of the neighborhood.
“That’s one of the great things about the role. I get to spend so much time talking to the audience that I’m driving the bus, so to speak. It allows me to bring my own flair to the part,” the actor says.
The 27-year-old Westport native, who performed in shows at Staples High School, is already an old hand at stepping into hits. Kaplan understudied the leading role in the Broadway production of “Newsies,” playing the part many times, and he co-starred in the national touring company of “Kinky Boots.”
Kaplan is thrilled to have eluded typecasting with the three very different starring roles he’s played in recent years.
“Jack (in ‘Newsies’) is a scrappy bright-eyed kid from the streets of New York, with all of that energy and charisma. Charlie (in ‘Kinky Boots’) is a lost boy — sort of like Pippin. Calogero is a nice blend of those two — charismatic and doe-eyed — but each of the characters has their own unique voice,” he says.
Kaplan laughs when I tell him he certainly passes for an Italian-American in the show. “Well, you know they say there are a lot of similarities between Italians and Jews,” he says, agreeing there is a long movie and stage tradition of Jews playing Italians and vice versa.
The actor likes the fact that “A Bronx Tale” offers him another chance to be a triple threat in a musical. The part demands someone who is equally proficient as an actor, a singer and a dancer.
Kaplan has come along at a time when the story musical is back in vogue, after that long period in the 1980s and 1990s when operatic British shows like “Les Mis” and “Evita” dominated Broadway. Recent hits, like “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Come from Away” and “Hamilton,” have scripts as strong as their musical scores.
“The art form has gotten more and more different. Certainly the musicals of the ’80s and ’90s called for a different style of singing and skill sets,” Kaplan says of the switch from shows where the vocals dominated, to today’s wider range of styles.
“A Bronx Tale” started as a one-man play, written and performed by Chazz Palminteri, which was made into a 1993 film co-starring Palminteri and Robert De Niro. Kaplan thinks the essence of the material hasn’t changed that much in its different incarnations.
“The play proved that all you need to tell a story is one guy on a stage. And the musical proves you don’t need a lot of sets and costumes and special effects. It’s still one guy’s story,” he says, adding the musical is playing in a theater (the Longacre) generally used for straight plays.
The actor will be spending the next year in “A Bronx Tale,” so he knows he has to be prepared to deliver the goods for many months.
“I don’t really ever leave the stage,” Kaplan says. “It’s a lot of talking and a lot of high energy. After two hours, you’re exhausted.”
The whole week revolves around being prepared to take the stage every night in peak form, with Wednesdays and Saturdays adding the challenge of two-show days.
“You have to make sure you’re hydrated, hit the gym to wake your body up and get plenty of sleep,” he says, adding with a laugh, he has become very familiar with the time-saving home delivery food app Seamless.
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