“Tony ‘n Tina” Negotiations Resume After Union Protest
by Silver Tyler
NOVEMBER 7 — The inflatable rat went up outside an off-Broadway show and drew the swift attention of cops from Midtown South, who declared that the ten-foot tall rodent “can’t be in the street, and it can’t be on the sidewalk.” A classic impasse.
The Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802 AFM, were protesting the decision by the new producers of the long-running hit, “Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding,” which plays at the Club Cache on West 46th Street, to fire the musicians who work in the production and replace them with a tape recorder.
Two weeks ago, Producers Kim and Sonny Ricciardi locked the three-piece band out of the venue and didn’t even let them in to retrieve their instruments. Local 802 had a three-year contract in place covering the venue, but the Ricciardis ignored it. So the rat went up outside the venue. Local 802 President Mary Landolfi explained what happened next. Hear her account here. The arrival of the iconic symbol of worker exploitation impelled restaurant owner Frank Sofia — who operates the Tony ‘n Tina venue as well as Sofia’s next door — to make an offer to mediate the dispute in a meeting that will take place this Monday, November 9th.
Local 802 has had a contract covering musicians working on “Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding” for over twenty years.
“There is a quality of art in an Off-Broadway show that people expect when they pay a hundred dollars,” said Sharon Kenny, a pianist and singer who was part of the band and was locked out of the venue. A certain standard needs to be upheld.”
A waitress at the restaurant, who gave her name only as Susan, said that patrons were upset and felt cheated by the canned music. Hear what she had to say here. Local 802 President Mary Landolfi said the Ricciardis have justified their actions by saying that the show depicted a working-class wedding, and working-class people don’t have live bands at their weddings. Theatre-goers outside the venue begged to differ. “I don’t care how poor you are,” said Lazaro Mas, who was outside the theatre taking in the scene. “You are going to have a band. A horn, drums, a piano, whatever.” Asked if not having live musicians in a show would bother them, some theatre patrons said yes. “You’re not getting what you paid for,” said Mona Thompson, who had just come from seeing Girl’s Night Out,” a show that has taped music. She and friends Sue Hawker and Peg McMann said they were okay with the taped music in the show they had just seen, but wouldn’t be if live music that was originally part of the show had been replaced. “You’re paying for a production,” said Ms. Hawker, “and that’s part of it.”
If the Ricciardi’s and Local 802 can come to an agreement, the rat won’t be back — and Tony ‘n Tina’s band will play on.