We Now Pronounce You Showroom and Show

On marriage No. 4, Tony n’ Tina ties the knot with Bally’s

Photo by Andrew James

Photo by Andrew James

Wearing antipasto isn’t so bad.

Despite post-show conniptions over the bride’s mama dropping bruschetta in the lap of a reporter she was hand-feeding, the tomato-topped delicacy was quite tasty once scooped from thigh to plate. “The cast destroyed her after that,” says apologetic co-producer Raphael Berko.

Chill, cast, chill.

Redeeming herself, Mama crooned a lovely “Santa Lucia.” Could have done without the Chicken Dance, though. Flapping in rhythm is simply uncool.

By the way: Congratulazioni per il tuo matrimonio.

Even those whose familiarity with Italian culture ends at pizza and The Godfather can translate that. Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding is a nightly put-on (it’s fairly certain it isn’t followed by Tony and Tina’s bedding, unless it’s an exceptionally close cast). Yet the real marriage is between the longtime Vegas version of the widely franchised show—in which guests are integrated into the pretend shindig, party with the actors and feast on Italian food—and Bally’s, its newest home.

And it’s still in that goo-goo-eyes honeymoon phase.

“This room allows us to be more creative because we can reach out to the audience in a live theater style,” says co-producer Jeff Gitlin. Now in their 10th year, the faux-nuptials reopened June 13 at Bally’s former Big Kitchen Buffet room—renamed the Windows Room—following an  eight-year run at the Rio and shorter stints at Planet Hollywood and David Saxe’s V Theater. “It’s a much larger capacity, about 380 people compared to 140 we had before. And it’s a million-dollar view, looking onto the Strip, floor-to-ceiling windows, and more space for the dance floor and bar.”

Another incentive to pinball to another venue is that producers own the room, rather than being tenants. “We’ve built a stage to support stand-up comedy and music or just about anything,” Gitlin says. “We’re soliciting producers and working with the Caesars Entertainment Group to determine what’s best for that room.”

Whatever that is will play bridesmaid to the joining of likable mook Tony Nunzio and his sweet-but-I-don’t-take-no-shit new bride, Tina Vitale, attended by you and the happy couple’s families. Exploiting every amusing stereotype in the family-dysfunction playbook, the actors—who never, ever break character—immerse you in the experience, exhorting you to celebrate with them and witness a couple of familial meltdowns while scarfing down an Italian buffet, guzzling champagne and shoveling wedding cake into your pie hole. (Performers rotate in roles from night to night, except the bride, played by Samantha Bogach, the poor dear having to wriggle into a wedding gown every evening —and looking damn fine in it, darling.)

Don’t think you’re at a wedding? Why do you think you’re hearing “Cel-e-brate good times, COME ON!” and “You know you make me wanna SHOUT!” and “Get down, boogie-oogie-oogie?” Just lucky?

“A lot of people bring gifts, though I’m not sure what they expect us to do with them,” Berko says. “They bring toasters, blenders, they even buy sex advice books for the marriage.”

Shmoozing (and improvising) it up at the tables, Tony seeks marriage advice. (Don’t cheat so she doesn’t take a knife to your sausage and meatballs, dude.) Cute as a pixie, Tina gets a bit blotto (she’s not alone) and tells Connie, her gum-chewing, middle-finger-flying, extremely pregnant maid of honor she’s “made of trash.” (After all, the woman checks her teeth in the reflection of a table knife.)

Behold the bride’s flamboyant brother gaying it up, dancing in high heels, boogying to “YMCA” shirtless in an Indian headdress and telling a guest: “You wanna sleep with my mother? Take the knife. You’ll need it.” Or watch the groom’s randy, grab-ass dad, the padre who gets a little snockered, the nattering DJ and the photographer in the color-blind, Salvation Army-assembled tux. Don’t forget the smarmy caterer/comedian who jokes, “You know why Italians don’t like Jehovah’s Witnesses? Italians don’t like witnesses.”

Many guests of the wedding—that’s us—overflow with connubial spirit. Others need to find their matrimonial mojo. “The ones who say, ‘I hate this interactive thing,’ they’re the ones who wind up having a great time,” Berko says. “The husband and wife who haven’t danced in years, they somehow lose themselves.”

Some lose themselves in the fantasy. Some get downright lost. Any ceremony including passages from “Corinthians 13: 1-13”—the most uttered words in wedding history after “I Do” and “Did you see the knockers on the bridesmaid?”—must be real… right?

During a production of the show in Maui, Gitlin recalls, a man had told his wife that his real cousin named Tony was getting married. A bit confused, she told her hubby during the show: “I can’t believe how crazy your cousin Tony is.” Reality check, please.

All good, clean, wacky-wedding fun, though. Except for guests’ reactions to Tina’s sweet cousin Terry, who once had sex with Tony’s pal, then got hitched to Jesus. Shrinks could make a mint figuring out this nun-sense.

“Men are very naughty with the nun,” Berko says. “She [the actress] won’t leave character, but we have to keep an eye on her. People will grab her. They all want to bang the nun. I’m Jewish, so I don’t get it.”

Could it have something to do with gags such as her requiring a Heimlich maneuver, followed by the line, “She choked on one of Joey’s nuts”? Perhaps they need to make respect for her a habit. (Rim shot!)

One needs sustenance for the conga line so we belly up to the buffet to pile plates of dee-lish chicken parmesan, bowtie pasta, ravioli, baked ziti and garlic bread. Behind the reporter is the father of the groom’s buxom stripper girlfriend, “Madeline Monroe,” who asks advice on wrangling a marriage proposal out of him. (“Threats,” she’s advised.) Later, she shakes her considerable stuff—clothed, but cleavage-y—in the lap of a guest, ta-ta’s bouncing merrily along.

Now the reporter is miffed. What would you prefer in your lap—the bruschetta or the stripper?

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