The whole Disney Trip Clan of my immediate family drove out to Port Washington, New York to see my Nth Cousin Xce Removed Bobby Conte Thornton in his oneish man show: Blame it on My Youth, at Eight PM on Friday October 19.
Because he had a special guest in something he normally does alone (with a four piece backup band) I called it a “oneish” man show.
Because we were worried about making it through start of weekend traffic from New Jersey to Long Island, we left…
We arrived with plenty of time before the show, and were able to meet up with his family before we all went in to our seats. Because it was down the street from his Grandparents’ house, his family was able to meet up with a mass of friends and neighbors before going in to their seats.
Bobby’s singing is, and always has been beyond excellent. Since the only real comment I can make about the actual mechanics of singing is, “I'm awful,” there isn’t much I can add in way of analysis. I will say that he continues to improve, and even since we’ve seen him professionally perform, (including on Broadway) astonishingly, he has gotten better.
Since I tend to notice strange things…or I'm strange and I tend to notice things, I’ll go over some of the other aspects in more detail.
Overall it really felt like a flash back in time to a Rat Pack era show. That’s not only due to his selection of standards and show tunes, though that was part of it. The shiny, old school suit with the skinny tie helped a bit too. If I had either more class, or clue, I’d know what that kind of suit was called. Apologies, writing about classy musical performances is outside of my comfort zone of monster movies and borderline delinquency anecdotes.
And, of course, the visit from an Italian film star solely based on friendship and mutual respect between the two established when they worked together wouldn’t have been out of place in Sixties Las Vegas.
The key reasons for the comparison, though, were Bobby’s obvious ease in performing, and the storytelling between songs.
A stage is clearly the man’s natural habitat. Every hand motion, every jacket adjustment, and every expression allowed those of us watching to feel his connection to the song he was singing or the story he was telling. Those motions and presence also applied to when he wasn’t singing. I noticed how well he shared the spotlight in plays, but it’s more impressive as the featured performer. While he was clearly in charge up there, he insured the focus was on the musicians during the instrumental breaks.
I mentioned him being a “Storyteller” when he was in A Bronx Tale but in this show it went beyond the technical skill. At one point he specifically pointed out the difference between lyrics appealing to your mind, and music to your heart. That’s where the tales he spun between numbers came in. He was able to convey a detailed explanation of why each song was important to him before launching into it, allowing the audience to understand his emotional connection to the piece before forming their own. Many of his stories involved his relationship with his family. This is one area where being a highly prejudiced reporter is a benefit. I can verify what an outside viewer could not: all the fantastic stuff he mentioned about the actions of, and his connections to, his Grandparents and the rest of his family were absolutely true.
Speaking of Storytelling, anyone who’s seen any version of A Bronx Tale knows what a phenomenal Storyteller Chazz Palminteri is. (And that lesser number of us who have seen him in Oscar or Analyze This knows what outstanding comic timing he has.) He told some more amazing, compelling and entertaining tales in the time he shared the stage with Bobby. During this, I was impressed with a skill I didn’t know Bobby possessed- he was an excellent interviewer. He managed to lead his guest directly into each story he had obviously heard before and wanted him to relate, without telling it himself or giving any of the key points away.
The reason the original “C” said he came that night was that he was taught, “When you make it to the top, always send the elevator back down.” His condition for appearing was only that Bobby does the same for someone else when it’s his turn. Yes, he is as awesome as he appears on screen. He was exceptionally kind and patient to fans after the show as well, and the adventures he told showed that A Bronx Tale only scratches the surface of cool stories in his life.
Back to Bobby- his musical selections were also a heck of a mix. Going along with the Storytelling mentioned, he chose songs with meaning to him that carried along the overall narrative of the evening, demonstrating quite a range of emotions in his Tenor voice. In fact, some songs were so good he may have had an Elevenor voice!
Badum-tchhhhh! Thank you, tip your veal, try the waiters.
Further demonstrating that range, for shows he’s been in he didn't choose “his” songs but ones normally done by other performers, and in the case of Grease, other genders. His rendition of “The Worst Thing I Could Do” - including wandering through the audience singing to individuals and hopping up on the piano- was both impressive and hilarious, highlighting the free flowing, Rat Pack feel.
And while “One of the Great Ones” wasn’t his number for the time he was in the original cast of A Bronx Tale, I could easily see him singing it if he were cast as Sonny in the Twentieth Anniversary revival, after he’s sent that elevator back down for others.
Bobby’s grandmother set up a post-show reserved area in a restaurant a block away for the many friends and family who came to the show. Since she’s been planning outstanding parties for as long as I can remember, it was (what else?) outstanding. And since she’s an Italian Grandmother, although it was advertised as a “Cocktail Party” there was more than enough food to serve as all of our dinners after the commute out there.
Bobby worked his way throughout the room, enthusiastically thanking all of us who’d seen him. Considering the power and gusto of the show he just put on, and that he was in rehearsals for something else earlier in the day, his energy levels were unbelievable. He finally appeared to be drooping a bit as the clock approached midnight. Cementing Italian Grandmothers’ reputations everywhere, while several overstuffed plates of mini hot dogs and other hors d'oeuvres still wound their way by him as he made his way out, his Grandmother suggested he avail himself of the baked ziti in the fridge when he got home.
Many of us had various worldly concerns due to insane schedules and life in general (not to mention concerns about nightmarish traffic) about the effect of spending a night out going in to the evening. Bobby’s performance exemplified what entertainment is supposed to do, evaporating any and all worries instantly and keeping us focused on his skill and style from the start of the show, until the end of the inevitable middle of the night immobile traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway.
Getting to spend some time with a section of the family we’ve always been close to, but never get to hang around with enough, was the extra cream in the cannoli.
Click here for an article about the show not written by a relative, it’s always good to have an unbiased source.