A 25th anniversary is a big milestone – for a married couple certainly and even more so for a hit show. That’s how long Tony ‘n Tina have been together delighting audiences around the world with their wedding celebration. This silver anniversary production is special for me too since I’ve been involved with the show (and the show has been an important part of my life) nearly from its inception.
I first got involved back in 1985 when a good friend of mine from college named Mark Nassar asked me if I wanted to be the groomsman at a wedding. I had just graduated from college myself, was enjoying bachelor living and far from marriage minded. But this, Mark explained to me, was going to be something different — a make-believe wedding, a theatrical production staged by a group of my former Hofstra classmates in which the audience would play the guests. I had never heard of such a thing. I had no experience in the theater, no interest in acting but it sounded like a fun way to spend some time with my college friends.
Right from the first rehearsal I sensed there was something very special about this make-believe event. Even though I had no prior experience in the theater, I knew about partying, and it was patently obvious even at those first student productions that Mark and his friends had hit on a formula for getting people to let loose and enjoy themselves. Here was a room full of people, many of whom like me were not regular theatergoers, and yet everyone was having a blast. The combination of celebration and fantasy seemed to be irresistible.
It didn’t take long for a bright light to go off in my head. I realized this show had huge appeal and had the potential to be an enormous hit. I decided to get more involved with Mark and his friends, helping them develop the project as they continued to stage a few experimental productions over the next few years. And soon I decided to take the plunge. In 1988 I quit my job as a junior trader on Wall Street in order to launch my new career as theatrical producer. Of course, my parents and friends said I was crazy. But I felt this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Being young and headstrong, I was too naïve to listen to their sage advice. Instead, over the course of the next few months, I somehow managed to raise enough money to secure the rights and mount the first commercial production of Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding, which we staged in a small church and nearby restaurant in Greenwich Village called Gus’ Place. The rest, as they say, is history.
Only in hindsight has it become apparent how important a step that was, as the show has served as the launching pad for so much in my career and personal life. Through the show I met my wife and earned the livelihood to raise my family. I’ve also become part of an extended theatrical family that includes thousands of wonderful people all over the world. It may sound like a cliché but Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding is all about family, and those of us who have been involved, one way or another, have become a close knit group – at times dysfunctional (just like Tony and Tina themselves) but after all that just makes us more like a typical American family.
But setting the dysfunction aside, the joyful spirit of the show is infectious. It provides cast members and audience with a connection to each other that lives on long after the performance. There have been a good number of actual marriages that resulted from the show (not just my own), deep lifetime friendships; and all the places we have been together, the moments we have shared – this is what now motivates me to continue the legacy by bringing the show to a new generation. That’s why I hope you’ll be able to join us in the heart of Times Square for this special celebration of Tony ‘n Tina’s 25thAnniversary.