ATTENTION: YOUR INNER REAL HOUSEWIFE by Kate House
You’ve seen Teresa flip the table and Caroline dole out the questionable advice. You’ve watched Melissa make her debut and Kim G. stir up trouble. You’ve groaned, you’ve rolled your eyes…and you’ve loved it.
Bring the housewiferiffic action a bit closer to home on August 26, when the dinner show The Wicked Real Housewives of the Mob makes its loud, table-flipping way into Kowloon in Saugus. Arrive at 7 p.m. for a full-out dinner buffet, then prepare to enter the messy, messy world of reality television.
The premise: Brave TV is filming the Wicked Real Housewives season finale right here in Saugus and you’re part of the studio audience. The episode in question promises to be a doozy, seeing how it’s the welcome home party for a housewife’s husband (nickname: The Regulator) (naturally), who has just been released from the clink.
And what a party it will be, complete with a band playing retro hits, an actor who was featured onRenovate My Family and Trading Spouses and potentially the cheesiest night of fun you’ve had in a while.
Tips from the show’s writer, Darlyne Franklin? Wear what you’d normally wear to a coming-home-from-prison party. Also, get ready to be part of The Family. You and your companions will be named official relatives of one of the mobbed-up ladies as soon as you walk in the door. (Don’t worry, fellow wallflowers―no one gets singled out unless they really want to be.)
ITALIAN WEDDING COMEDY IN TOWN by Charles Runnells
The priest is drunk. Grandma fakes a heart attack. The groom makes a break for the door. It's a wedding planner's nightmare.But for Darlyne Franklin, it's comedy gold.
Franklin created "Joey and Maria's Comedy Wedding" in 1992, and since then the interactive dinner-theater show has become a national hit. Now she's bringing the show to Southwest Florida."Joey and Maria" plays tonight in Naples and Saturday in Fort Myers.Franklin says she came up with the concept after seeing the Mafia-themed stage comedy "Breaking Legs." The show made her recall her own Italian-American heritage growing up in east Boston.
"I thought, 'I know this stuff,'" says Franklin, 51, who moved to Naples in December 2008. "I grew up around all that. I can write this.'" And so she did, pouring exaggerated Italian-American culture into a show that turns audience members into friends and family at one of the kookiest weddings ever. You get gum-smacking bridesmaids. You get lots of tacky suits and dresses. You get an appearance by the Godfather, himself, and - if you want, you even get to kiss his ring. Sure, it sounds like a winning concept - in hindsight. But Franklin says she wasn't met by much enthusiasm when she first pitched the idea. Actually, no one thought the show would work at all. "People told me I was going to go broke," Franklin says and pauses for dramatic effect. "And I didn't." Far from it. She says the show makes more than $40 million a year in cities ranging from Las Vegas, Boston, Los Angeles and New Jersey. But don't confuse "Joey and Maria" with the similarly successful, similarly Italian audience-participation hit "Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding." Franklin says she developed her show without even knowing about "Tony 'n' Tina." "I had no idea there was such a thing," she says. "It happens like that. Like in the movies. Sometimes two different people will come up with the same idea at the same time."
In 2001, Franklin sold "Joey and Maria" to Dillstar Productions, but she still gets royalties and she retained Florida rights to stage the show. Southwest Florida - with its retirees and dinner-theater crowds - seemed the perfect spot to relaunch the show that made her rich.
So far, Franklin has staged only a handful of shows in Fort Myers and Naples. But word of mouth is spreading, she says. Most shows have been sold out.
Franklin directs the shows and serves as DJ, and she's hired a cast of local performers to play the bride (Stephanie Romano), the groom (Bill Maughan) and the rest of the family. The cast members wander the crowd and talk to the guests - sometimes grabbing people and taking them out on the dance floor.
Audiences really get into the show, Romano says. Some even bring envelopes and gifts (they're usually empty, though). "People come up to you and wish you the best of luck," says Romano, 24, ofNaples. "They get so involved in it. It makes you feel like you really did just get married.
A DOSE OF REALITY by Katie Lovett
Growing up in East Boston, Darlyne Franklin saw it all ... and then she wrote about it. With a little exaggeration, of course.
In 1992, Franklin took her Italian heritage and upbringing in East Boston and created a new type of interactive entertainment. Franklin, 53, is the writer of the hit dinner theater production, "Joey and Maria's Comedy Italian Wedding."
Now, the Newburyport resident is back at it again.
"Wicked Real Housewives of The Mob Boston" playfully pokes fun at a staple of today's pop culture: fascination with reality television — while also entertaining and drawing the audience into the plot.
"I had the idea for it last year," Franklin said. "It took me a year to figure out how to bring it together. I brought it together with the Italian gangster joke angle."
As with her other interactive dinner theater productions, "Wicked Real Housewives" is a show within a show.
"People love reality TV," Franklin said. "I love when the public wants to perform. With the reality TV phenomenon and popularity, I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to try to implement that into a live performance?'"
Premiering at the Kowloon Restaurant in Saugus this weekend, the performance invites the audience members to the party, a "Welcome Home from Middleton House of Correction" party, to be exact. The party happens to be occurring during the season finale for the mock reality television show, "Wicked Real Housewives of the Mob," which follows the lives of the mobsters' wives, among them, Donna, whose husband Rocco, is being released from the correctional facility.
As the evening begins, the audience meets the producers and the camera crew from Brave TV. The producers give them a lesson on "Reality TV Etiquette" and show a highlight video of last week's episode, in order to bring everyone up to speed on who is who, Franklin said.
During the show, the audience will be treated to dancing, live music, drama, surprise guests and some antics. The entire production is filmed and streamed live on monitors spread out around the room.
"It's very entertaining," Franklin said. "It's my version of 'The Sopranos meet The Real Housewives of East Boston.'"
Franklin said the show, which includes Nancy Fichera of Rowley, will continue to be performed at Kowloon for several months at least. Her company, Darlyne Franklin Productions, is always interested in hearing about other possible venues in the area that may want to host it, she said.
Franklin, who initially dabbled in stand-up comedy routines, has worked with well-known comedians such as Denis Leary and Lenny Clarke. Turning to producing, she began working on local television shows, moving from Boston to Groveland. Fifteen years ago, she moved to Newburyport.
She now divides her time, spending part of the year at her home in Naples, Fla. Today, Franklin has as many as 200 employees nationwide working on her shows.
In the early 1990s, when she penned "Joey and Maria," Franklin said, audiences were intrigued with murder mystery shows where they had to guess who committed a crime.
"I thought that was too contrived," she said.
She wanted to create something where the audience would get up out of their seats and dance, she added.
While Franklin sold the play to Dillstar Productions, she kept the Florida rights to the show and still receives royalties.
Watching the show still enjoy success and draw audiences, Franklin is thrilled. "Joey and Maria" was even once the topic of a Jeopardy question.
"I love when people tell me what a good time they have," she said.
Today, audiences at interactive dinner shows expect more than when it first began, Franklin said.
"They've raised the bar," she said.
By joining it to reality television, the show has "a great hook," Franklin said. It could create a whole new genre, such as a show based on "Survivor" or other reality TV, Franklin said.
"I believe this is what will bring the interactive audience back out," she said. "This show will be a blast for men and women because of the mob angle.
In addition to "Wicked Real Housewives," Franklin's "latest passion" is her show, "Tutu Tiara."
"It's an interactive princess show where the girls in the audience are officially (crowned) princesses," she said. "The show is as close to an accurate account of what a real princess experiences, leading up to and including, a coronation — only a lot more fun."