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Barbara moves quick from Gyp to ‘A Bronx Tale’

Not so long ago, Joe Barbara sent a video clip of himself reciting lines in a high school classroom to film legend Robert De Niro.

To Barbara, the image of De Niro watching and judging that clip is still a little unsettling.

“That makes me nervous, imagining that,” says Barbara, who plays the role of Gyp DeCarlo (among four others, including “bowling alley owner”) in the soon-to-close “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas. “I have now had the opportunity to have Robert De Niro sitting six feet from me in a folding chair in a rehearsal hall. But the thought of him sitting alone, watching an audition video of me … I gotta say, it’s pretty scary.”

One of the underappreciated stage performers in Las Vegas since joining “JB” in 2009, Barbara has been sky-hooked from the Las Vegas Strip to the Great White Way. He’s to play the role of Carmine, and serve as the understudy to the lead role of Sonny, in the upcoming Broadway musical adaptation of Chazz Palminteri’s “A Bronx Tale.” The production opens for previews at Longacre Theatre on Nov. 3.

De Niro, who starred as Lorenzo Anello in the film version of “A Bronx Tale” is co-directing the production with Jerry Zaks (“Little Shop of Horrors” on Broadway). The music is written by Alan Menken with lyrics by Glenn Slater, and the producer is the well-resourced Tommy Mottola and Dodger Theatricals .

“This is not a situation I would expect to have at this point in my career, with these people at this level,” Barbara says. “It’s a whirlwind kind of thing. It’s ridiculous, really.”

“Jersey Boys” closes Sept. 18; four days later Barbara hits New York for rehearsals.

Barbara’s affiliation with Palminteri dates to 2012, when Palminteri was performing “A Bronx Tale” as a one-man show at the Venetian (a mutual friend, Joe Piscopo, introduced the two). Barbara followed up with the video clip of himself reading the lines of Carmine, who was portrayed played by Joe Pesci in the film.

Those scenes were recorded in the TV studio and classroom at Bishop Gorman High, where Barbara teaches broadcast media. Palminteri and De Niro were both impressed with that audition, which changed Barbara’s career. He performed the role in February at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J., and was Palminteri’s first call for Carmine when the Broadway show was cast.

As Palminteri himself says, “Joe is is the real deal. We want people whose talent is apparent, and we want people who are honest and authentic. Joe is all of that.”

FLASH FROM MENOPAUSE

Cindy Williams, the onetime Shirley Feeney of “Laverne & Shirley,” is extending her stay at Harrah’s as the guest star in “Menopause the Musical” through Oct. 2. Her run was originally set to end Sunday. Producer Alan Glist says the production is enjoying a particulalrly torrid summer, and jokes that it is the “crown jewel” of Caesars Entertainment productions, given all the shows closing this year. “Menopause” owns the distinction of being the longest-running musical ever on the Strip.

At Thursday’s show, Charles Fazzino, the official artist of the U.S. Olympic Committee, presented Glist and Williams with limited-edition posters he created just for the production. Versions signed by Fazzino, a renowned 3D pop artist, are currently on sale at the “Menopause” gift shop for $40.

NEWTON ACHING

Wayne Newton has a faulty wheel. In late June, Mr. Las Vegas suffered a bite from a brown recluse (if it’s such a recluse, why is it hanging around Wayne Newton?) while clearing a shed at Casa de Shenandoah. That ailment caused him to miss the premiere of “Sharknado 4” at the Stratosphere and also a couple performances at Windows Showroom at Bally’s.

The bite and subsequent fever also caused Newton to lose 40 pounds, down to 185. As he says, “I’ve lost weight, but not in the way you want to lose weight.”

SPACE SPARED

On Thursday morning I awoke to a series of texts — including one from Mark Shunock — asking about the fire that broke out late Wednesday on Polaris Avenue. The blaze did considerable damage to the Peoples Autism Foundation headquarters but remarkably, Shunock’s new entertainment enclave next door, The Space, was largely untouched.

“Unbelievable,” Shunock said during a walk-around of the property Thu rsday morning. “I came down here last night and there were flames six, seven stories high. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in the A section. He also hosts “Kats! On The Radio” Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on KUNV 91.5-FM and appears Wednesdays at 11 a.m. with Dayna Roselli on KTNV Channel 13. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter.

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