I spent my Friday doing a Tony n’ Tina show in Rockford, Illinois. I’d never been to Rockford before. Yes, I know we all grew up hearing the stories about Rockford, but I’m here to report that none of them are true – there are no fearsome dragons guarding the city gates; the people do not worship the giant goat god Capragon; there’s no ritual sacrifice of virgins in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Well, maybe a little of that, but I wouldn’t call it a ritual.
When we perform TnT in Chicago, our venue can hold an absolute room-bulging maximum of about 300 people. In Rockford, we entertained 500 people. The venue was described to us as “the finest restaurant in Rockford,” a place called Giovanni’s, and that’s where the strangeness began. It seems that Giovanni’s #1 competitor is a restaurant called The Cliff Breakers, which happens to be run by the Vitale family. Ah but you see, Vitale is also Tina’s family name in our show, and it is mentioned prominently and repeatedly throughout the night. So the decision was made to change Tina’s family name to Giovanni. Yikes, was that a challenge! That name crops up all over the place! And when we’re improvising with Tina’s mother, many of us commonly will refer to her as “Mrs. V.” So far as I know, only one person slipped and used the V word Friday night. I won’t name names, but I will say that a) It was said on-microphone, and b) It wasn’t me!
The evening was a $150 a plate benefit for the American Cancer Society, so it was quite the highlight of Rockford society for the evening. I even had the pleasure of meeting the Rockford television weatherman, though I confess I don’t recall his name.
I do want to recount a conversation I had with a few patrons. I was playing the caterer, Vinnie Black, so I circulated through the room during dinner, shaking hands and making chat. One happy and impeccably attired couple, who were surely in their 70s at the very least, informed me that they were engaged to be married. The bride-to-be winked as she made the claim, “…and we’re both virgins, Vinnie!”
I smiled back and asked, “Oh yeah? And are the two of you looking for a house near a school?”
“Yes we are!” she replied.
“Are you two by any chance Catholics?”
“Yes we are! How did you know that?”
“Well, I know you Catholics believe in miracles!” And we all laughed, I’m happy to say. That kind of material can clank pretty badly if you read people the wrong way, but as I always say, life on the edge may be risky, but the view is fantastic!
To sum up, Friday night was an exhausting night for many of us, certainly for me. I don’t think I’ve ever been more tired after a TnT show. Spending 3+ hours running around that huge room, together with all of the extra stress of travel and logistics, really took it out of me. But the audience was as raucously appreciative as you could ever hope for. TnT is trying to work it out so that we can make additional trips to Giovanni’s, and I for one would be delighted to be a part of it!
P.S. While we were performing in Rockford, TnT was also being performed in our regular Chicago location. The touring group consisted mostly of former cast members (including my roommate CC, who was with the show for 7 months but left 2 years ago), but I was one of the fortunate few from the regular cast who was asked to come along.