‘A Bronx Tale’ to take Penn State audiences back in time with coming of age story

The Center for Performing Arts at Penn State will present “A Bronx Tale” on Wednesday at Eisenhower Auditorium.
The Center for Performing Arts at Penn State will present “A Bronx Tale” on Wednesday at Eisenhower Auditorium. Photo provided

Eisenhower Auditorium audiences will be whisked away to a 1960s Bronx stoop with the upcoming State College premiere of “A Bronx Tale” on Wednesday.

The musical is a coming of age story that follows a young man stuck between family fealty and the mob. However, even though the show is a throwback, with its doo-wop musical style, cast member Mairys Joaquin says the message remains relevant to today’s audiences.

Joaquin, a 2010 Penn State graduate and one of two alumni on the show bill, says she’s been singing and performing her entire life, but her path to this performance wasn’t typical. She didn’t study musical theater at Penn State, opting for a degree in journalism and business law, and she spent seven years in education in New York City.

“It’s been an interesting road, but a lot of the things we’re talking about (in the show) are situations that have come up in my life,” Joaquin said. “One of the main storylines of ‘A Bronx Tale’ is the love story between Calogero Anello, who is a young Italian guy in the 1960s, (and) this girl Jane, who is an African American girl on the wrong side of the tracks. That love affair between two totally different people from two totally different worlds is one that mirrors my life. I’m Dominican and an Afro-Latina and (my partner) is from Seattle, an Irish guy that I met through Teach for America in 2012.”

This mixed-race storyline is just one of the aspects of “A Bronx Tale” that Joaquin, who plays Denise, Jane’s best friend, and is the understudy for the role of Jane, finds relevant to modern audiences.

“(The show) is not dated at all. It’s a coming of age story,” she said. “This young Italian guy is caught between choosing love and fear, choosing a path his father would be more proud of versus choosing the path of the streets. It’s a coming of age story that involves love, passion and a lot of thoughtfulness. It applies to our world today. For a lot of the situations that come up in the show, the audience will be like, ‘Hmm, yeah, I’ve definitely been in that situation.’”

But even though Joaquin fuels her passion for the performance with the real-life relevance it holds for her, she admits the performance life does take an extra level of care that her previous role in education didn’t quite require.

“The days get long and it’s a profession where you’re literally using your body as your instrument. ... Before, in my career in education, yes, it was important for me to be healthy and take care of myself, but now it’s at another level, where every single day you have to make sure you’re warming up and stretching your body, taking care of your vocal chords…making sure you get to bed at a decent hour and get plenty of sleep. You have to treat yourself like you are your instrument,” she said.

Joquin, along with fellow cast member and Penn State alum George Vickers V, who plays the role of Tyrone, is looking forward to returning to Penn State for the performance. She says she hasn’t made a return visit since 2011.

“I’m super excited to get back and to Eisenhower. It’s been a minute,” she said. “I hope that we at least have an hour or two (free) ... I would literally just walk around campus. I had the best four years while I was there.”

Audiences can catch “A Bronx Tale” during one showing only, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Eisenhower Auditorium.