Summer is nearly here and it’s that time of the year when more couples take their vows and enter into marital bliss. So what better time to revisit the icon of interactive theater, the revival of Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding?
Inspired by the creative musings of Mark Nassar and Nancy Cassaro while they were undergraduates at Hofstra University in the late 1970s, the show eventually evolved into a commercial production that opened in February 1988 and ran for 11 years.
The bride, groom and entourage of quirky characters are back—slightly reimagined for a 21st century audience. But one thing is evident: love is in the air. The story is as old as Shakespeare. Two families with more than their fair share of history collide as the young bride and groom declare their love for one another. On the Vitale side, we have bride Tina (Marilia Angeline), her mother Josephine (Denise Fennell) gay brother Joey (John T. Lynes) and cousin Sister Albert Maria (Courtney Brooke Lauria), among others.
On the other side we have groom Tony Nunzio (Joe Ferraro), father Anthony, Sr. (Rick Pasqualone), younger brother Johnny (Chriss Lazzaro) and grandma (Annie Rachele Lanzilllotto). Then, of course there’s the wedding party, which includes pregnant bridesmaid Connie (Chloe Patellis) and American Idol wannabe Donna (Emily Dinova), along with a handful of other zany participants including an ex-boyfriend, drunk priest and colorful catering staff.
While the original began with a mock ceremony at St. John’s Church in the West Village followed by a stroll to the reception a few blocks away, this new version begins oddly within the confines of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School and traipses through Times Square for a reception at the culinarily dismal Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar (which received perhaps one of the worst reviews ever by the New York Times.) But you don’t go for the food.
Instead, this bright, young cast serves up lots of crass and sass—interacting with the audience and dancing to pop favorites (as well as classics) sung by Donny Dulce (Micah Spayer) with the help of an ever-playing song list. Spayer may be one of the hardest working cast members, working the room and belting at Freddy Mercury levels from start to finish without the help of the original production’s live band.
As Tony and Tina, Ferraro and Angeline are like a perfectly made cannoli—sweet with a bit of texture. They interact with guests, hit their marks and ride the roller coaster that has been in the making for nearly 35 years. To that point, the Italian-American experience is different than it was back then, and director Tony Lauria has sexed up the families from their original inception. No longer is Tina’s mother an old-school Italian in mourning for her deceased husband and carrying around a pocket-size family photo album. Fennel’s interpretation is more Real Housewives of New York City. Also brought into the 21st century is Joey, Tina’s gay brother who brings his boyfriend Rick (Anthony Fett) under the guise of videographer. Unfortunately the dramatic tension of a young man caught between Old World and new is lost and the pair become a cliché.
But at the end of the evening, it’s all about Tony, Tina and their bright-eyed optimism. While fists and cake fly, Tina continues to utter the mantra, “It’s my special day!”—and after long enough, it’s a sentiment fully realized by both wedding party and guests.
Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School
120 West 46th Street, followed by Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar