Be Sure to Catch this Chaotic Bouquet!
Manoa Valley Theatre, celebrating their 50th season, has brought back an audience favorite. Done in 1996 and in 2011, TONY N’ TINA’S WEDDING is mounted once again with a fresh cast, crew, and direction in this seemingly timeless (it’s being performed across the nation constantly, how is that not timeless?) iteration of a tale of two families and the two people that brought them together.
Directed by R. Kevin Garcia Doyle, this production was originally billed and conceived as the first “environmental/immersive theatre” event of it’s kind when it was first premiered in 1985.
Taking place at the Manoa Dynasty, a longtime dining institution of Manoa Valley (Guy Hagi had his wedding there, or at least the reception!) that allows clients to rent out the venue for various events, and in this case: a wedding and a reception. Vinnie Black (Maleko McDonnell) ,the “Cadillac of Caterers,” and his wife Loretta (Iris Wilhelm-Norseth) greet attendees at the door (sometimes ducking out to put out fires), seating the audience on either the Sakamoto (bride) side or the Nunzio (groom) side. There are glimpses of both sides of the family as mass begins and we are introduced to our titular characters, Valentina “Tina” Sakamoto (Aimee Nelson) and Anthony “Tony” Nunzio (Fili Leasau). Mass is led by Fr. Mark (Richard Bragdon), and more and more the audience is introduced to the zaniness that are the Sakamoto and Nunzio families seem to attract, including Sr. Albert Maria “Terry” (Christianne Michel) re-appropriating the Bonnie Tyler hit “I Need a Hero” for the Lord and the lighting of the wedding candles being a very fake electronic affair. After mass is concluded, the program segues right into the reception, where house band Donny Eureka (Dan Connell) and Fusion (Annette Arinix, Chris Chorney, Kelly Howerton, Kainalu Kolivas, Lock Lynch) “serenade” the banquet hall as events start to unfold. There’s dancing, food fights, and so, so much more. Often it’s hard to summarize and address the complete start to finish of a show because of either spoiling things or because there’s simply too much things to list, and this time it’s both.
The cast (30+ at that!) should be applauded for their commitment to keeping the party going while maintaining the guises of their characters.
Yes, but everyone that gets onstage acts, isn’t that most of what theatre is?
True, and there are portions of the production that are scripted. There are certain story beats that must be met, and what a game it is piecing together the story of everyone before they got to the wedding and attaching it to what actually goes down during the wedding. Due to the nature of this immersive experience, improv is relied on heavily as every single person from the moment you arrive at Manoa Dynasty is in character until Tony and Tina depart, and even a bit after that. It’s no easy feat, and everyone involved in the performance is pitch perfect in who they are, through and through. Depending on where you sit you may interact with certain wedding members more than others, but I highly encourage you to play along and join the cast in this celebration. Do not be afraid to talk to the actors, or rather don’t be afraid when they talk to you! If you decide to go out to the bar yourself, you may catch a snippet of something happening that you wouldn’t have if you had stayed inside (and vice versa is equally as true!). You may get invited to go “skiing,” and if you do then follow the person that invited you! There is a ton of things happening during the production to make sure there is something to be done with everyone. When everyone is dancing, feel free to dance too! The show is a good time, and all it’s doing is asking you to jump in on the festivities as tea, shade, and drama get spilled all over the walls. Again, to the cast, well done.
One note- do not touch any of the performers, and mind your manners. The management of Manoa Dynasty do not tolerate any safety concerns to the audience or the wedding party. Seriously.
Another note- the production comes with dinner! Be sure to eat up!
Garcia Doyle’s team behind the veil is equally as talented as the actors hustling on the dance floor. Lynch as musical director gets Connell and Arinix to jam out to some unorthodox live music (line dance party music is quite the experience when first heard played live), keeping things musically fresh through the evening. Choreography by Kelly Wadlegger is fun and a little corny, but that only adds to the tongue-in-cheek tone and fun of the evening. Montana West Rizzuto’s set is simple yet effective, turning Manoa Valley Theatre into the gussied up Manoa Dynasty, home of the Black family’s business. Rachel Sorensen’s lighting succeeds in focusing and highlighting when it needs to happen, matching the tone and mood of the scenes well. Sara Ward’s props are a fine tuned attention to detail, running the gamut from floral pieces and candles to the servers’ trays and a picture of Josphina Vitale-Sakamoto (Amy K. Sullivan)’s late husband, framed and all. With costume design by Jennifer Hart and Trudy Hodnefield and the hair and makeup design by Lisa Ponce de Leon, this was one of the dressiest and sharpest weddings (productions, even!) that I’ve ever been to. The make up was popping, the bride’s party had glamorous dresses, the band and Vinnie had exquisite jackets, and everyone simply looked divine. The hired help may not have had the style and panache the family and the bridal party had, but they were dressed the part, and that is equally as important!
I wish I could see this production again, if only to try and experience it differently. There are many things going on, and many people to talk to, but fret not- you do not get lost throughout the production. The cast and crew are experts at getting you to follow the main story threads of the night, and when you leave you won’t feel like you missed anything big. It’s in the small things that make an already fun and exquisite experience sublime. For example, I received two pieces of paraphenelia, one being a Manoa Dynasty business card from Loretta and one being Grandma Nunzio (Linda Johnson)’s number. I joined a dance that snaked its way around the ballroom and ended up getting a front row seat to some of Michael Just’s (Matthew Miller) passionate shenanigans involving the bride. What else can happen? Who else is there to talk to? You’ll have to see for yourself as you attend Manoa Valley Theatre’s TONY ‘N TINA’S WEDDING.
The show has been held over, but tickets are going fast! Check the ticketing website for available dates or call the box office at (808) 988-6131 from 9:30am–5pm, Mon–Fri and 90 minutes prior to performances for updated ticket information.