July 24th, 2006

Vinnie

“Your future’s so unclear now . . .”

This post begins with another farewell, though not nearly so somber a farewell as my previous post. It’s a fond farewell to Marisa. She has been a member of the Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding cast for over 4 years and Sunday was her last day with us. In the short term, she’s getting on an airplane in less than a week and flying to Italy, where she’ll be studying the Italian language for the next 5 weeks, which I think will be a wonderful thing for her. In the longer term, I’m not so sure where she’s headed, but I know this much – she has a very special talent and her world of options is wide open.

Marisa has played several different roles in the course of her time with TnT. She’s been Connie, the pregnant bridesmaid; Sally Antonucci, the nerdy photographer; and once or twice she even put on a whole bunch of makeup and played Grandma Nunzio. Oh, and on one memorable day, she was on the wait staff so she pulled back her hair, bound up her breasts, brushed on a hint of a mustache, and played the waiter as a man – she even wore a name tag that read “Vito.”

But the role for which she will be most remembered is that of Loretta Black, wife of the caterer Vinnie. You have to understand that our director permits a wider range of interpretations for the role of Loretta than for probably any other role in the show. We have seen Loretta portrayed as everything from a dotty Brit to a saucy southerner channeling Dolly Parton. Marisa’s Loretta is a native Italian whose speech is colored by a thick accent and peppered with a variety of Italian words and phrases. All of that comes to us in the character of a noisy, hyperactive dynamo that you can’t take your eyes off of (yes, I’m aware that I’ve just ended a sentence in not one, but two, prepositions; deal with it). Marisa freely admits that she is essentially imitating her mother, who hails from Rome, when she plays Loretta. I’ve met the woman. Mother and daughter look very much alike; they’re both somewhere south of 5 feet tall and full of energy.

The main thing that I cannot hope to communicate via the written word is the natural-born clown that inhabits Marisa’s performing self. That inner clown enables her to elevate all of her characters to the rarefied air of the comedic stratosphere. It has been my extreme pleasure to share the stage with her considerable talent, and it is my honor to regard as a friend the delightful person behind that talent!

On a related topic, Sunday was also the last day of Frankie Week. That’s the one week each year that our show includes, in person, Mr. Frankie Avalon. He plays himself, with the added subplot that he is Tina’s godfather and that he promised Tina’s late father long ago that he would come to sing at Tina’s wedding. It is always an intense week. After Sunday’s show, management treated us to pizza and an open bar (though no hard liquor). I took photos during and after the show, and I’ve posted a group of them here.

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By the way, in case you didn’t know – the title of this post is a lyric from the song “Beauty School Dropout” which Frankie Avalon sang in the movie Grease. He also sang it every night of Frankie Week, and our TnT bridesmaids (plus Joey Vitale) did choreography along with his performance.

Best wishes go out to Marisa and Anthony as they seek to learn whether there’s life after TnT!
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