Madison, WI: Audience plays along at 'Tony N Tina's Wedding'
GAYLE WORLAND / email@example.com
Plenty of Madison voyeurs turned out Monday night to witness the joining of Tony and Tina in hokey matrimony, and partook in one of those raucous weddings that you can't wait to tell your co-workers about the next day.
But instead of bearing gifts, these attendees brought with them a paid admission ticket -- at $60 face value, not at all cheap, mind you, but the cost of stepping right into a world of wacky caricatures, and being part of one of Off Broadway's legendary show phenomena.
"Tony N Tina's Wedding," as entertainment options go, is about as cheesy as the ziti buffet dinner served midway through the evening. But that's the fun of it. As soon as "guests" enter the huge banquet room at the Edgewater Hotel, the fourth wall melts away, and everybody's part of the family -- hussies, hoodlums and hucksters all, God love 'em.
The 24-member cast spoofs just about every nuptial tradition in the book, and wedding guests, even while seated at their large banquet tables, find endless small vignettes playing out around them: The bride launching into a cat-fight with her tattooed, pregnant maid of honor, for example, or her cousin Terry, a young nun in training, throwing herself against the lips of a long-ago boyfriend after she's downed a few too many Amstel Lights.
The father-of the-groom's date? A stripper. You get the idea.
The Tony-n-Tina genre is sometimes billed as "interactive theater," but this production is more like being plopped in a nuptial theme park, where visitors pay to take a wild ride. At the Edgewater, it was obvious that audience members who knew what they were in for -- and who played along, happily bouncing to the dance floor when a cast member grabbed them by the arm -- had the best time. As dancers packed the floor for the Macarena or snaked through the banquet room in a huge Conga line, they showed off their evening-wear glam, feeding into the fun.
Though packed with ethnic stereotypes, garish leisure suits and loads of ribald humor, "Tony N Tina's Wedding" provides affection along with the bawdiness -- or as noted by caterer Vinnie Black (Tony Chakos), a "BOO-fay of love." As the dashingly handsome and cocky Tony, Joe DeLorenzo seems truly in love and lust with his Tina (Janine Linar), who's not the brightest bulb in the ceiling but certainly feels like a star when she dances her wild satin-and-lace tributes to her idols, Madonna and Britney Spears (much to the consternation of her high-strung mother, well played by local actress Jodi Cohen).
Even wedding singer Donny Dulce (Danny Prata), in stretch pants and Bono-style shades, treads that fine line between welcome narrator and obnoxious MC, keeping the pace lively and the ad libs amusing, with lots of unexpected and funny local references.
The Madison show takes place under one roof and features New York actors in the key roles of Tony, Tina, wedding singer Dulce and caterer Black. Supporting cast members were local.
As at a real wedding, T-n-T guests have to cope with those awkward moments of small-talk with strangers, along with the wish that dinner would be served earlier than it is. But as the cast's booze bottles empty and the wedding party grows increasingly disheveled, the event starts to feel even more genuine.
And by the time the exhausted, humiliated and blissfully happy couple heads off to the Polynesian Resort and Waterpark in the Dells, the return to reality feels like a jolt.
Can't wait to see the photos.
"Tony N Tina's Wedding" runs through Sunday. For tickets, visit www.frankproductions.com or call the Edgewater box office at 256-9071.