Married life imitates art in ‘Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding’

Photo provided by S&G Press -- Sam Masotto and Gina Musumeci in 'Tony & Tina's Wedding.'
Photo provided by S&G Press -- Sam Masotto and Gina Musumeci in 'Tony & Tina's Wedding.'

When Sam Masotto and Gina Musumeci tied the knot in 2009, they already had plenty of practice. They had been married multiple times — to each other — on stage.

Filling the title roles of the Joy Theater’s upcoming production of “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding,” Sam and Gina Masotto’s story reads like something from a scriptwriter’s imagination.

A love story that could only happen in Hollywood ... or on Broadway, where it actually happened.

As undergraduates at Ramapo College of New Jersey in the early 2000s, the two of them barely knew each other.

However, as budding young actors three years after graduation, they just happened to show up separately at a New York City audition.

Neither of them originally planned to be there.

As Sam Masotto explained, “A buddy of mine showed me an audition call in (the magazine) “Backstage” for “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding.”

“He said I’d be perfect for the part but I wasn’t so sure. I had done more character roles, not leads. I almost didn’t go but I said, ‘What the heck. Let me give it a shot.’ ”

While he was reading for the part opposite a few other “Tina” hopefuls, in walked Gina Musumeci, and they recognized each other.

As she explains it, “I almost didn’t go myself. I thought I would be too short for the part.”

The role description called for a woman who was at least 5 foot 7, and she is only 5 foot 2.

The two of them read together, then started dating that same night. They didn’t get the parts initially but in February 2008 they finally did.

They traveled with the show to Dallas for a three-week run and performed in a few other cities after that, including four shows at Harrah’s New Orleans in April 2009.

Finally, after acting out dozens of on-stage weddings, they decided to make it happen for real.

“Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding” opens an eight-show run at the Joy on Tuesday, Oct. 29.

Described as “an interactive production,” every audience member becomes part of the show.

Seated cabaret style at small tables on the theater floor, patrons serve as wedding guests, complete with a champagne toast, pasta and wedding cake.

As groom Tony Nunzio and bride Tina Vitale, the Masottos portray the progeny of what Sam Masotto calls “fairly typical Sicilian and southern Italian families. ... (It’s) what they’d expect at any crazy Italian wedding they’ve ever been to. A lot of antics and surprises, and singing and dancing.”

Danny Prata performs the role of wedding singer Donny Dulce. Tony Lauria, who has been affiliated with the show since 1991, is the director.

About 20 local actors have been cast in the production, which is billed as a “25th Anniversary Tour.”

First performed in a Greenwich Village American Legion Hall in 1985, “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding” opened Off-Off-Broadway three years later.

When its 22-year run finally ended in 2010 it was claiming to be the longest continuously running Off-Off-Broadway show in history. It was adapted into a limited-run feature film in the early 2000s.

“The cool thing about the show is that, since it involves audience participation, it changes every time,” Sam Masotto said. “There are moments that you repeat but the reactions are totally different because you have different people watching and acting.

“So, for us to show up at these places and meet new people and instantly form bonds with them — or at least attempt to — is really wonderful.”

Commenting on the show and what it’s like being married in real life, Gina Masotto said, “We get to do what we love and be with the person we love.

“It’s not an easy lifestyle. You go with the odd hours, the odd times and the traveling. That’s why a lot of actors get together. They understand the lifestyle. They get it. We are so very lucky and we know it.”

To which, Sam added, “That’s true. We try to keep love in every aspect of our lives, and that’s what this show is really about.”

“Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding”

WHERE: Joy Theater, 1200 Canal Street, New Orleans

WHEN: Tuesday, Oct. 29-Nov. 3; show times vary

TICKETS: $45-$100

INFO: (504) 528-9569; www.thejoytheater.com