Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding
At Chicago Theater Works
By Dan Zeff
Chicago—“Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding” ran from 1993 to 2009 at Pipers Alley in Chicago and it was a surprise that the show ever closed. Chicagolanders and tourists alike seemed to have an inexhaustible fascination for the raucous Italian nuptials between Anthony Nunzio and Tina Vitale. The original New York producers of the show obviously felt there was more box office gold to be mined from the wedding in Chicago and brought back the show after a seven year hiatus.
The first production was staged under a single roof. The marriage ceremony took place in one room and the wedding party and guests moved across the hall to a nightclub setting for the reception, including a buffet meal. The revival uses two locations. The evening begins with the wedding service at the Resurrection Church at 3309 North Seminary Avenue. The show then moves to Vinnie Black’s Coliseum (also known as the Chicago theater Works) at 1113 West Belmont Avenue, an easily walked block away.
“Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding” hasn’t any time for political correctness. The show leaves no Italian stereotype untouched. The characters sound and look like a casting call for a Martin Scorsese movie (the wedding is set during the 1980’s).
The Nunzio and Vitale families don’t like each other, and Tina’s mother Josephine is not one to hide her contempt for her in laws under a bushel. The atmosphere is loud, the humor elementary and sometimes ostentatiously coarse. The dancing at the reception is hyper active and on opening night the characters and members of the audience competed to see who could work up the greater sweat dancing to “YMCA” and other anthems of the eighties. As the reception passed into its later stages, emotions ratcheted up into mock violence (I couldn’t see clearly over the table in front of me but I think a Nunzio decked Josephine Vitale).
The meal is a basic pasta and sausage course with salad and French bread. It’s not cuisine dining but the audience should eat its fill, with refill portions of pasta available. The dinner ends with plates of wedding cake served at the table. The price of admission includes a the inevitable “champagne toast.” At my table for six, the champagne bottle was already two-thirds empty when we sat down, allowing each diner a decent sip, but there is a cash bar for those who require additional fortifying.
What makes the production work is the unbounded energy of the 23 performers at the reception. The church wedding itself was a pretty bland and perfunctory affair. But at Vinnie Black’s Coliseum the evening rocked hard. The pot was vigorously stirred by singer-master of ceremonies Donny Dolce, given a very credible rendering of the vulgar Las Vegas lounge singer by Micah Spayer.
Brian Noonan is not only the reception host as Vinnie Black but also tosses in a nicely abrasive impersonation of a second rate Rodney Dangerfield in a comedy routine. This being an Italian wedding, there has to be a significant Roman Catholic presence, represented by Billy Minshall as the mild mannered Father Mark and Alisha Fabbri, Tina’s sister and soon to take her vows as Sister Albert Maria.
Mitchell Conti really throws himself into the fray as an increasing wired Tony, and Hannah Aaron Brown does her part as the bride who is also a pretty good dancer. But virtually everyone in the cast helps to jack up the comic intensity and decibel count at the reception.
Paul Stroili, a cast member of the original Chicago production, is the director. He rightly judges that the production is not made for subtlety and nuance and turns his ensemble loose to generate the appropriate uproar. The brash performances look spontaneous, which is a credit to the direction.
Given the nature of the show, it’s difficult to assess acting skills, but the ensemble commitment to raising the roof has got to be admired. There were ethnic jokes aplenty to go with the Italian caricatures, but the show doesn’t have an offensive bone in its body, possible exceptions being some gross sexual gestures and a few words of profanity. But if “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding” was a motion picture, it would get an innocuous PG-13 rating. The show is staged in an efficient 150 minutes, including the church ceremony, the walk to the reception, and the reception itself. Maybe the show won’t run 16 years but it will provide plenty of fun for visitors who want an evening short on decorum and long on in-your-face fun.
“Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding” is playing through December 31 at the Resurrection Church, 3309 North Seminary Avenue, and Chicago Theater Works, 1113 West Belmont Avenue. Performances are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Times vary. Tickets are $75 and $85. For tickets and information, visit http://tonylovestina.com.
The show gets a rating of
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