Review: ‘Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding’
Wacky “wedding” invites the audience to share the fun
‘Tis the season once again when families gather for traditional celebrations, only to end up too close, like ingredients in a pressure cooker. Nothing can take the strain off our holiday season like the realization that some folks have it worse. And what can stress a family like a wedding?
“Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding” opened Valentine’s Day, 1988, in NYC and has been reborn in city after city ever since. It is an old and honored example of “interactive theater,” in which cast members and audience mingle freely as common participants in an event. In this case, we are in the banquet hall, “Vinnie Black’s Coliseum,” to celebrate the marriage of Tony Nunzio to Tina Vitale.
If the names prepare you for some stereotypes, you’re ahead of the game. You don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate some of this silliness, but it helps. The humor is not offensive, as a rule, and the script steers clear of the standard mob jokes. What I was totally unprepared for, given my ambivalence for this genre, is how lovingly crafted a show can be. This production is tightly directed, provides more audience interaction than most and has a number of really great dance numbers. The cast is working its collective butt off.
As the wedding party pours into the hall, you’d swear this was a cast of thousands – a little like “Alexander,” but with better-staged fight scenes. Actually, some 30-odd – make that really odd – characters grace the production, including some of the usual suspects: the father of the groom and his stripper girlfriend, the “maid” of honor who is anything but a maid, the bride’s ex-boyfriend. The actors have their roles down so well they freely carry on with audience members in convincing style.
Oh, but did I say, “fight scenes?” A lot of the plot can be summed up as: “People say and do the darndest things when they’ve had too much to drink.” This is a loud, raucous show, so don’t expect to take it all in. I know about the affair between an usher and the bride’s cousin because the argument with his girlfriend happened right beside me. I don’t think the other side of the room knows; I wonder what THEY overheard? One must be prepared to take in only so much information and just “go with the flow.”
A word of warning: Although the show can loosely be called dinner theater, it might be best to consider the food another show “prop.” While the meal is catered by Andiamo Restaurants, don’t expect haut cuisine. The mostacciolli and chicken show signs of being kept warm for too long before serving, which will surely remind you of every wedding reception you’ve ever attended.
I came away from the show with an early gift: a nickname from the cast – “Sarge.” I think I’ll keep it. It’s an improvement on what my friends call me.
“Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding” Staged by the Detroit Actors Guild at Freedom Hill’s Ralph A. Liberato Hall, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights, Dec. 16 – 18 & 30. Tickets: $60, which includes a full Italian dinner by Andiamo’s. 586-268-7820. www.freedomhill.net.
The Bottom Line: This rowdy, bawdy interactive comedy is best enjoyed in groups of friends and/or family.
Tidbits: News from around town
Theaters in partnership
Two of Michigan’s most critically acclaimed professional theatres will offer significant discounts to each other’s ticket holders this season. In an unprecedented move in the state’s theatre community, any patron holding a ticket from Meadow Brook Theatre will receive a 20% discount at Performance Network and vice versa.
Performance Network Executive Director David Wolber and Meadow Brook Theatre Managing Director John Manfredi made the announcement extending the discounts to their patrons for the entire season.
Wolber stated, “Meadow Brook is the leading theatrical institution in the state and we are thrilled to offer our patrons this opportunity. Any work theatres can do together makes the artistic community stronger.”
Manfredi said, “The Network is doing some of the most important and vital work in the state. We want to encourage our patrons in any way we can to see the work this outstanding company is doing.”
For more information on Meadow Brook Theatre call 248-377-3300 or on the web at www.mbtheatre.com; for more information on Performance Network call 734-663-0681 or on the web at www.performancenetwork.org.
Queer Encyclopedia: Everything you ever wanted to know about the musical arts is covered in “The Queer Encyclopedia of Music, Dance and Musical Theater,” a 300-page publication that is the first comprehensive, authoritative guide to all things queer and musical. Released by Cleis Press, Inc., the book was edited by Claude J. Summers, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan – Dearborn and the editor of The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage.
It’s a fascinating, fact-filled look at the composers, singers, dancers, musicians, performers and choreographers whose work spans many eras and styles. It’s the perfect addition to your LGBT-themed library!
For information about “The Queer Encyclopedia of Music, Dance and Musical Theater,” call 1-800-780-2279.
Congrats to Black Bag:
Congratulations to Barton Bund and BlackBag Productions for a successful year raising money for the Kids in Need Scholarship Fund. Enough money was collected through ticket sales at Ann Arbor’s Blackbird Theatre this year to put one child through pre-school for a year and another through their summer drama program. Let’s see what we can do in 2005!