Frank Rizzo: The Last Big Man in Big City America by Sal Paolantonio

Thu, 09/10/2015

Sal Paolantonio's thoughts about having his book go from "shelf to stage."

Rizzo by Bruce Graham is Theatre Exile's first commission and is based off of ESPN reporter Sal Paolantonio's best selling book Frank Rizzo: The Last Big Man in Big City America. In 2013 when it was announced that Sal Pal's book was being made into a play, Sal sat down with his friends at ESPN and shared his thoughts about "having his book go from shelf to stage."

You can read the full interview below or the original interview here. Original interview by Bill Hofheimer for ESPN Front Row. 


When did the idea of a play based on your book first come about? What’s the process been like for you?
This idea has been bouncing around for years, but this is the first time a legitimate theater company has purchased the book to bring Rizzo to life on the stage. Right now, we’re in the process of finding the right dramatic direction and approach. But the playwright, Bruce Graham, is legit. And he has a sports connection. His play, Any Given Monday, which has an obvious football connection, played Off-Broadway in New York and did quite well. His dialogue is authentic, characters gritty and he knows how to flip the dramatic action.

What’s this experience been like for you?
This is totally a thrill. A play about Rizzo could really work — more than a movie. Rizzo was the last of the big time big city mayors, and he governed largely due to the power of his size. Think of a cross between Paul Bunyan and Paul Sorvino in Goodfellas. That’s Rizzo.

How will you be involved in the play?                                                             
That’s to be determined. I want to be involved as much as they want me involved – as a consultant, as someone who can connect them to the stories in the book, the Rizzo characters who are still alive, to the city’s politics I covered when I was a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. But this play must be the artistic vision of Theatre Exile and the playwright. I had my shot with the book. Now, it’s their turn.

You talked about Dennis Farina being perfect for the role of Rizzo. Can you expand upon that? Who are other actors you could see having roles in this as perhaps supporting characters?
Farina, Paul Sorvino, James GandolfiniChazz Palmentieri — all of them would be great. Chazz did a great one man show re-enacting the movie A Bronx Tale. Something similar could work with Rizzo.

Do you have a background in theater? Any interest in an on-stage role of some kind?
My involvement begins and ends when I buy a ticket and sit in the audience. My three daughters have all been involved in the theater. In fact, my middle daughter, Kyle, just produced and starred in a show in Steamboat Springs, Colo.


Rizzo: The Last Big Man in Big City in Big City America by Sal Paolantonio published by Camino Books, Inc.