New York – When it comes to weddings, Tony and Tina's takes the cake.
After more than 14 years running in New York and in other cities across the country, the offbeat, off-Broadway sensation Tony n' Tina's Wedding has lasted longer than most real marriages do these days.
And industry insiders say the honeymoon is far from over.
"It kind of takes the concept of Rocky Horror that for years and years existed only at midnight [shows] and moves into an Off-Broadway venue that lets real people interact with real people," says Fox News entertainment correspondent Bill McCuddy. "I think that's why it's been and will continue to be so successful."
And if you haven't yet gotten yourself invited, here's the concept: Audience members are treated like family by the actors and can decide which side — bride or groom — they want to be on, and who they want to be. The actors roll with the punches — and the punch lines.
"It's a great opportunity for audience members to improvise and be actors for one day," the show's producer Joseph Corcoran said. "They can be Tony's probation officer, Tina's kindergarten teacher, whatever dialogue they start, the actors will play along with."
And that interaction keeps people coming back, again and again.
The wedding ceremony takes place in a real church, where three groomsmen, donning gaudy tuxedos, usher the "family" to their seats. After Tony and Tina take their vows, the entire audience walks, rain or shine, to the reception hall a few blocks away, where soft drinks, alcohol and baked ziti are served along with the specialty of the house: "honeymoon salad: lettuce alone, no dressing — Ba-Da-Bump!"
Once the party begins, anything can happen.
"It's a safe environment. They (the audience) can really become uninhibited," said the original "Tony" and one of the show's creators Mark Nassar, who now plays Tony's father in the New York production. "You're around characters that are fun and not self-conscious."
And who knows, audiences might get treated to a performance by an up-and-coming actor. The Sopranos' Aida Turturro, for instance, had a stint in the show early in her career, as did former baseball great Lee Mazzilli. And Tony Patellis, a current Tony n' Tina cast member, will be play an embattled high school principal in the upcoming season of The Sopranos.
Tony n' Tina's Wedding opened in New York City in 1988 and has had several successful runs in various U.S and international cities, including Tokyo, where the show was a smash hit.
And despite the exaggerated Italian-American characters portrayed in the show, Corcoran says he's met little resistance from groups objecting to the stereotypes.
"Surprisingly the ones who've contacted me have never seen the show," said Corcoran. "So my first response is, 'Please come see the show and then we'll talk.' This is not about Italians, it's about family. It could be Jewish, Italian, American, British, Japanese, whatever. A family's a family's a family."
So what's next for these newlyweds that keep going and going and going? McCuddy thinks a movie could work.
"It would have to start out as kind of a midnight cult thing like Rocky Horror, with people throwing rice at the screen and passing around their own lasagna. I think it's possible that it could be the next Rocky Horror."
We'll have to wait for that time warp.