St. Andrew’s Episcopal School
A wedding day. One of the most important and carefully planned days in a person's life. Everything should go perfectly… unless you're Tony and Tina. This Italian-American couple and their wild families not only put on an entertaining spectacle for the audience to view, but get them directly involved in the party, the food, and the madness. Herndon High School's Tony n' Tina's Wedding is as humorous as it is heartfelt with a talented cast immersed in the world of Queens, New York.
Tony n' Tina's Wedding, created by the Artificial Intelligence comedy troupe, is an "environmental" theatre piece. The audience is involved in the wedding as if they were guests themselves. The mostly improvisational play is centered around the union of Tina Vitale and Tony Nunzio. Their loud and warm families dominate the event, from embarrassing speeches to getting up in the middle of the vows to use the restroom. The audience remains engaged throughout the whole event.
Tony, played by Yali Miranda, embodied the tough but lovable character completely. It was a joy to see Yali's progression from timid during the homily to ripping off Tony's dress shirt to defend Tina in a brawl. Tina, played by Lulu Megahed, was cohesive and convincing as a bratty, yet sweet, bride. Megahed's accent, like the rest of the cast, stayed consistent throughout and Tina's love for the Vitales shone through.
An audience favorite was the pregnant bridesmaid Connie, played by Emma Harris. Harris' interactions with the audience were hilarious, and the witty, improvised comments and animated movements were a joy to watch. Johnny, played by Augustus Wood, dazzled the audience with both amazing dance moves and charm. Wood even flirtatiously gave out "Johnny's" phone number to multiple people in the audience.
There was never a moment where it felt like one performer was competing for the spotlight. Due to this skill, some of the most vibrant and enthusiastic characters got an unforgettable moment in said spotlight. Uncle Luigi, played by Noah Eckert, embodied an old, Italian man perfectly. Seeing Eckert laugh at all the wrong times and dance with a cane was incredible to watch. Father Mark, played by Tommy Maxson, was a proper Catholic priest at the beginning and later turned into a sloppy, drunken mess at the end. Maxson was a master at character development. The beloved Grandma Nunzio, played by Gaby Bradley, was consistent with the character's demanding physicality throughout the whole play, which was a difficult task that Bradley achieved with ease.
Even the waiters, who served a three-course meal of salad, pasta, and wedding cake without ever dropping one plate, were actors too. They all played an integral part in the production, while at the same time developing characters of their own.
To produce this show technically was not an easy task, but Herndon's tech team were geniuses in lighting, sound, and costumes. The lighting was cleverly designed by David Wrigley, Zach Wemyss, and Liam Nowak. During the wedding ceremony, a beautiful pink was displayed in the back, and during the reception, an array of a rainbow and Italian flag colors lit up the scene just right. Wilson Purdue and Caleb Silvernail, who managed the sound, ensured that everyone could be heard, even despite the masks. The costumes, created by Chloe Thompson, Augustus Wood, Lauren Tucker, and Katie Hancock, were both appropriate and immersive in the world of the early 90s.
Tony n' Tina's Wedding at Herndon High School is a demanding production that effortlessly ticks all the boxes with its talented cast, impressive technical skills, and hilarious improvised dialogue.
Westfield High School
The wedding was everything the newlyweds had dreamed of and more. Friends and family admire the bride as she elegantly struts down the aisle. The ceremonious cutting of an extravagant three-tiered cake is accompanied by a toast. The groom rips off his shirt while attempting a WWE-esque smackdown of his wife's ex on the dance floor… Wait, wedding smackdown? WIFE'S EX??? Yes, you heard that right! In its full Italian glory, "everyone is welcome" to Tony n' Tina's Wedding at Herndon High School, which had guests up and on the dance floor, rolling on the floor laughing, and "fighting the urge to use the Lord's name in vain."
Determined to showcase Italian American stories of growing up (and apparently getting married) in Queens, Nancy Cassaro led The Artificial Theatre Company to New York City. In 1985, they premiered Tony n' Tina's Wedding, which tells the story of two feuding families, the Vitales and the Nunzios, "brought together in holy matrimony." Set in 1991 and complete with a live band and three-course meal, the production (or more fittingly, immersive audience experience) is the epitome of interactive theatre. Vibrant character backstories, one-of-a-kind improvisational vignettes, and live interactions with the onstage audience reveal the hilarity of the tumultuous ordeal, and as the mix of alcohol and Italian blood becomes progressively problematic, the reception hysterically takes a "highway to hell."
Rather than simply watching the chaos unfold, the spirited cast cultivated a welcoming environment where wedding guests (the audience) were invited to join in the festivities - a critical element of the semi-improvised production. From the seamless integration of individual conversations with an overarching narrative to comprehensive technical efforts, the entire cast and crew's passion and commitment to simulating an authentic Italian wedding were evident in a collective display of extraordinary endurance and unity.
Commanding the wedding with her cohesive character and consistent accent, Lulu Megahed convincingly portrayed Tina with a comedic presence. Paired with Tony, charmingly played by Yali Miranda, the couple demonstrated that through thick and thin, "love endures," exemplified in their heartfelt apologies and declarations of love at the end of the reception.
Alongside the bride and groom, several characters emerged as lives of the party. Showcasing explosive enthusiasm during the groomsmen's dance and an infectious charisma after giving their number to a wedding guest, Augustus Wood embodied the groom's little brother, Johnny, with an unparalleled youthful spirit. Similarly, Emma Harris's captivating sarcastic humor and witty jests made Maid-of-Honor Connie a favorite amongst the wedding guests. Proving that anybody can have a good time, Gaby Bradley characterized the boisterous Grandma Nunzio with profound commitment, even maintaining her physicality during curtain call!
Countless technical enhancements brought the venue to life. From managing and incorporating a vast array of props (Cecily Rood, Chloe Thompson, Meena Megahed) to the immaculate execution of sound (Wilson Purdue and Liam Nowak) l), where constant adjustments had to be made in real-time to balance coinciding conversations, the crew's technical precision and clear collaboration with the cast helped immerse the audience in Tony and Tina's whirlwind of a wedding.
Riddled with comedic nuances and an unwavering spirit that kept attendees on the edge of their seats, you never know who may pass you a drink or pull you up to dance. Through the pandemonium of it all, the genuine relationships established within Herndon High School's Tony n' Tina's Wedding remind us that even when you take a tumble on the dance floor or get demoted to Maid of Trash, "it takes a village, and we've got a pretty good one if I do say so myself."