Beloved actor Tony Danza is bringing his cabaret act Standards & Stories to Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts (PTPA) on Saturday March 11. Featuring music, storytelling and a bit of dancing, the show marks Danza’s first appearance on the PTPA stage, but the Taxi and Who’s the Boss? star—who’s now shooting the Paul Reiser-helmed There’s … Johnny! series for NBC’s Seeso channel—has a long history with the village of Patchogue.
Have you been out to Patchogue and the East End of Long Island before?
I haven’t been out in a while…but I sort of grew up in Patchogue. When I was a kid I lived in Brooklyn, and from the time I’m like seven or something, my parents sent me out to my uncle and aunt who lived off of Ocean Avenue. I grew up there with my crazy uncle Vinnie who was the kind of guy who would teach you how to play poker and by the end of the lesson you’d owe him $50,000 and your mother’s house.
Patchogue has definitely become a place for arts and culture, and a lot of new restaurants and things like that. Is that part of why you decided to do the show there?
No, we got booked. It’s one of those serendipitous things that happen. That’s really all that is. I’ve been out doing the show with some success—people seem to like this particular show—and when I heard I was going to Patchogue, I was really excited.
You’re no stranger to the stage. Tell us about Standards & Stories?
I’ve been working on doing this kind of show for a long time now. I started fooling around with live shows in ’95, ’96. This incarnation is something I was trying to actually mature. This is like sort of a grown-up act. And it’s basically self-explanatory. It’s songs that I particularly like, and like singing, and stories. I try to plug the songs into the stories and evoke some kind of emotional connection with the audience. You get some laughs…I’ve got a great band. I get to do this act, it’s like a gift for me—I get up, I tell stories, I sing some songs, I tap dance, I play a little ukulele. All in all, it’s a fun show.
Over the years of doing this sort of show you learn how to really enjoy it and relax into it, and how to just go up there and have a good time because you’re the lucky one getting to do it. And the more fun I have, the more fun the audience seems to have.
Does it change depending on the audience?
It’s always a different audience, so it changes the show. But you also try to fashion the show for the particular venue you’re playing…I’m sure I’ll have to come up with some Patchogue stories.
Do you talk about your experience teaching English for a year on A&E’s Teach: Tony Danza in your show?
Not in this particular show I don’t bring that up, but it changed my life and I’m proud of it. I’m proud that I did it. And I wrote a book about it and it made the bestseller list. And, by the way, March 23 is the seventh annual Teacher VS Student Talent Show fundraiser at Northeast High School [in Philadelphia]. We’ve been doing this every year. When I was there that year I found out there are 210 teachers at that school, 3,500 kids and they’ve never had a teacher talent show. So I put one on and it was a big hit. One of the greatest thing a teacher said to me, “Mr. Danza, when I went into my room this morning, the kids gave me a standing ovation.” If you’re a teacher, you know that’s pretty good. We put the student team of acts against the teacher team of acts, and then we judge, we give out prizes and we raise some money to keep the programs alive that keep the kids at school. 2,000 people usually show up.
So you’ve stayed connected to the school, which is terrific.
I really mean it, that experience and what that school gave to me—I really feel like I have a debt, I really do.
How’s the new TV show, There’s … Johnny! going?
It’s going great. We’re about a month into shooting. We’ve got two weeks left, and then we’ll have the first eight episodes. It’s the staff of The Tonight Show when Johnny Carson was the host, and I’m playing [The Tonight Show producer] Freddie de Cordova. I have my grey hair enhanced right now and I’m walking around with glasses.
Given your connection to Patchogue, will you check out the old haunts during your visit?
Oh yeah. There’s no doubt there’s going to be a drive around, that’s for sure.
Tony Danza’s Standards & Stories opens at Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts on Saturday, March 11 at 8 p.m. Call the box office at 631-207-1313 or visit patchoguetheatre.org for tickets.