“Cooking with the Calamari Sisters” is a nationally touring theater production that combines cooking, music, and comedy starring sisters Delphine and Carmella Calamari. In anticipation of the sisters’ appearance at the Marcus Center from Oct. 29- Nov. 2, Co-Creator Jay Falzone took the time to share more about this one-of-a-kind production.
Emily Carl: How would you could describe the show to someone who’s never heard anything about it and is about to see it?
Jay Falzone: We usually describe the shows as an all-singing, all-dancing, all-cooking musical comedy [laughs] It’s true! You’re going to get a lot of food, a lot of music, and a lot of laughs.
EC: How did you meet your co-creators?
JF: There’s three of us: there’s me, there’s Stephen [Smith] and Dan [Lavender]. I met Dan before I met Stephen, but only in passing. I met Dan working within regional theaters and in the tour world and I only knew of him and attended functions that we were both at and things like that. I met Stephen in 2007 when we were working together on another show and since then Stephen and I are 4 years married at this point.
EC: Congratulations! How did the three of you then come up with “Cooking with the Calamari Sisters?”
JF: Stephen was actually working on a show with Dan who invited Stephen and I over for a dinner party. So we went and at the conclusion of the dinner party we were the only ones left and he started going through palate cleansers liqueurs and said that he’d always wanted to do a show about two Italian sisters that cook and sing together and really make it a tribute to family- and in this case it’s Italian American, but it really translates to all family. I’ve had conversations with someone who was actually of Polish descent and said the great thing about the show is, yes, it’s about the Italian American experience, but there’s so much of it that can translate to whichever background you’re from because it’s really all the same that there’s the pride, and the family, and the importance of family, and the fun and craziness of that which is really what we wanted to capture. But anyways, so he said he always wanted to do a show about that and we were drunk enough to say, “Oh! We should do it then! Lets just do it!” and so we scheduled a time to actually brainstorm and we proceeded to drink too much then too [laughs] so it’s really a show that has come out of us being too drunk to know better.
EC: It looks like a great mixture of music, cooking, and comedy. How did you come to that combination?
JF: The genesis of the show initially was supposed to be these two larger than life sisters who do a cooking show where they incorporate the music that they grew up with. In an Italian family, music is.. there’s so many great Italian classics and we use most of them in “Cooking with the Calamari Sisters.” Between “Volare”, “Mambo Italiano”, “Come Out To My House” it’s amazing that so many of these things have had pop covers since we actually wrote the show. Originally it was just going to be us cooking and saying anecdotes and singing along to some songs and that was the concept because that’s what the girls would do- they would cook some things, sing along with some songs, and tell a family story. In the process of creating the show, the very small plot that there is just kind of took on a plot of its own and we realized we had something much, much, much more than we intended to begin with- that we had the sisters relationship and these two characters became so loved by the audience that it was something bigger than that. But incorporating the music is just who these girls are. To them they always cooked and danced and sang in the kitchen with their grandmother and their mother.
EC: What can you tell me about the Calamari sisters?
JF: Delphine and Carmella are definitely larger than life people. Carmella is- we like to call her the lovable slut. Carmella is a free spirit- she is a little bit ditzy, she’s a little bit flighty, and she’s definitely boy crazy.. and she’s definitely the hipper of the two. Delphine is the battle axe. She keeps everything in order. At the end of the day, it’s Delphine’s kitchen. She’s the older sister.. not by much- just by 4 years- but she’s the mother hen. She’s awkward with guys, she doesn’t chase them, and one of her biggest things is she’s a meat fanatic. Delphine loves meat to, almost to a sexual degree. [laughs] She loves meat.
EC:What makes these characters and this show so successful across the country?
JF: I think it’s the fact that laughing like this is so needed right now. We hear repeatedly that when people meet us or even when they approach the girls and let them know that they needed to laugh for two hours, whether it’s just because life gets to you or sometimes it’s serious stuff. We’ve had people come and say, “I lost my child back in December and this is the first time I’ve laughed this hard.” We had a woman come up to the girls in Philadelphia crying already before she even talked to them and said, “You two are why I got through chemo every week. Your blog”- because there are blogs online that the girls have done- “Your blog..I look forward to each one every week so I can laugh instead of focus on what I was going through.” So there’s such a need for escape in today’s world and I’d like to think that we provide that and we provide it with art. At the end of the day, these two girls are sisters and they love each other, and they fight and they bicker, but they at the end of the day they mean the world to each other and it feels good to be able to watch that and laugh for two hours straight.
EC: What do you hope the audience leaves feeling after watching the show?
JF: I hope that we opened up a new area in the country of people who will love the Calamari sisters. It’s astounding the amount of people that have taken to them and want to, it might be silly, but they want to be their friends. They would love to have dinner and hang out with them.
That’s our goal at the end of the day- yeah you laugh for two hours AND you feel like you made two new friends.
“Cooking with the Calamari Sisters” runs at The Marcus Center from Oct. 29-Nov. 2. Tickets are available online or by calling (414)273-7206.