Dinner theater has come to mean that the audience will be fed and watch passively as actors on a stage entertain them. However, “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding,” which Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, andwill host this week, breaks the mold by actively involving the audience as part of the play. It began in New York City in 1988, and according to its website is the “longest running show in off-Broadway history.”
“Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding” is a show centered on the wedding and reception of happy couple: Tony and Tina. The show is all about a big Italian wedding, said actor Drew Thompson, a 2010 Ohio State graduate.
“It’s like if you could imagine Tony Soprano marrying one of his kids off in a traditional Italian wedding,” he said.
Although the plot line has a focus and goals to be met, actors improvise throughout most of the show, said actress Elisa Markus, who graduated from OSU in 2009.
“We can pretty much do our own thing within the parameters of the show,” she said.
Within that improvisation, there are “a series of little events that add up to be really funny,” Thompson said. “The best way to describe it is like a roller-coaster ride. There is a lot of fun, laughing and drama.”
Cast members move throughout the space like they are taking part in a real wedding reception, treating audience members like actual guests attending the fictitious wedding.
“The show is really interactive with the audience,” said Markus. “Instead of theater-goers sitting in a seat watching it on stage, it’s in a ballroom like a wedding reception.”
And like many wedding receptions, the “guests” at this event get to eat dinner and wedding cake as they help the bride and groom celebrate their wedding day.
According to the CAPA website, audience members will be fed a pasta dinner, given champagne for a toast and a slice of the wedding cake to enjoy throughout the show by the Nunzio and Vitale “families.”
“Audience members should feel free to act like they are at a wedding,” Markus said.
However, the level of audience participation in this show may not be for everyone, Markus said.
“Expect to not be passively entertained,” she said. “If you are expecting to sit quietly in your seat then this is not your show.”
CAPA will be putting the show on in the Cardinal Health Ballroom in the Lincoln Theatre. Opening night is Jan. 20 at 7:30 p.m. The show will run through Jan. 30.