3 PM: Three and a Half Hours to Curtain

News   3 PM: Three and a Half Hours to Curtain
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Setting Up the Cast Party

Most of the people who will take part in tonight's opening of Titanic are finishing lunch at 2 PM, but Mark A. Certonio is focused on the post show dinner. He's senior catering sales manager of the Marriott Marquis Hotel directly across 46th Street from the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, where his expected 1300 dinner guests will be attending the first performance.

Sitting in the near-empty Westside Ballroom, Certonio described how he'd begun planning the event two weeks earlier. The producers asked that the dinner reflect as closely as possible the final dinner served aboard the Titanic, and Certonio has been working from a book, "The Last Dinner on the Titanic" to recreate not just the menu, but the glassware, china and place settings.

The original 12-course meal included Consomme Olga (a scallop soup), Chicken Lyonnaise, lamb, etc. Certonio's three executive chefs and a kitchen staff of 12 have been working for two days to recreate the sumptuous meal. Menus bear the logo of the Titanic's White Star Line. A local New York brewery bottles under an Old Titanic label, and 12 cases of the brew are expected through the door any minute. As Certonio signs for extra chairs in the hotel's mauve and rose colors, he explained that he enjoys setting up opening night parties, especially those with themes, like Titanic's.

His favorite party so far was the one for Ralph Fiennes' Hamlet in 1995, at which skull-shaped cakes were served and his ballroom was filled with stars from every medium."

Asked how he got into organizing Broadway cast parties, he said, "I kind of asked for it. My main market is conventions. I decided I wanted a local market to deal with so I wouldn't get bored. It's fun."

As the pace of movement in the room picked up, Certonio was relaxed: "My work is done at this point."

-- By Robert Viagas

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