There's a crucial scene that will have audience members on the edge of their seats during A Bronx Tale, the musical that opens tonight at the Buell Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. It's not the climactic dance sequence, though: It's the moment when the character named Joey the Whale (played by Michael Barra) eats a slice of pizza.
Folks in the audience will be craning their necks to see the label on that pizza box, which turns out to be from Mici Handcrafted Italian, a small local chain of family eateries with five locations in the metro area. Elliot Schiffer, CEO of Mici, says he was happily surprised when he got a call from the producers of the musical asking if he could supply food for the scene.
"They've got characters eating pizza, an Italian sandwich and bread sticks," Schiffer explains.
Mici was asked to work with the production's props director after the producers discovered that the restaurant group has a loyal following in Denver — and that many theater-goers make the downtown location, at 1531 Stout Street, a stop before seeing a play or musical at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. "They thought it would be a cute way to highlight a local business for people in the know in the audience," Schiffer adds.
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The requirements for the delivery of food sound more like the demands of an uptight Yelper than a regular Mici customer, though. The delivery must arrive at the theater an hour before each show and must contain exactly two slices of cheese pizza (and no more; the producers don't want any extra food lying around), one sandwich sliced in half, and bread sticks with no seasoning, oil or cheese.
Furthermore, the sandwich must arrive unassembled and with no loose items — so whole lettuce leaves instead of shredded lettuce, for example. That's because the food is an integral part of the stage set and can't cause any hazards to dancers and actors. Imagine a dancer slipping on a stray pepperoni slice or shred of lettuce, and the picky request makes sense. "We can't have any ingredients falling out onto the stage," Schiffer points out.
A Bronx Tale was originally created by Chazz Palminteri, and first brought to Broadway by directors Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks. The production runs through January 20 in Denver, and to add another local touch, Mici's branded pizza boxes and waxed-paper sandwich wrappers are part of the props visible on stage during specific scenes. Mici also gets a poster board in the lobby of the theater and a promotional deal inside the musical's printed program. If you go, look for the deal that will land you a buy-one, get-one-free ten-inch pizza up to $9.75. (Other restrictions apply, so read the fine print.)
And that's how you get a pizza the Great White Way right here in Denver.