NEW YORK The Sopranos' cast and crew screening after-party at Roseland Ballroom—a special occasion held to mark the premiere of the series' final season—was a feast for the senses. Eileen Rivard, HBO's vice president of special events, worked with XA, the Experiential Agency to design her vision of an Italian street festival. “We had talked about themes, and one that kept coming up was a street fair scene. This party was really about thanking the cast and crew who have become almost like family,” Rivard said. “It was a fun, casual, interactive idea, and we knew the crowd would have fun with it.” (A red carpet season premiere event was held at the Museum of Modern Art on March 7.)
Following a screening of the first two episodes of the sixth season at the Ziegfeld, 1,000 guests made their way to Roseland, where they walked past plywood walls—the kind used at construction sites—plastered with posters, playbills, artwork, and fliers from the show's advertising campaign and from cast and crew members' own shows, books, and other endeavors.
Entering the party was akin to arriving at an Italian feast on the Lower East Side. XA strung 4,000 bulbs from the ceiling and dotted the room with 3,000 candles, creating atmospheric red and amber hues. XA also displayed a video loop of gritty photographs of water towers, rooftops, fire escapes, and tenement buildings onto two panels suspended from the ceiling. Black, red, and gingham linens covered cocktail and dining tables throughout the club. Bruce Benedict of 8th Street Lighting projected a gobo of a cityscape and the HBO logo onto the stage wall.
As with any big family party, food was a major focus. Match Catering's staff—dressed in jeans and white tank tops—served an abundant spread mixing upscale dishes like rosemary roasted filet of beef with Barolo demi glace with some street food favorites such as knishes, focaccia pizza, and fried clam boats. To lend authenticity to the street fair atmosphere, real staffers from local establishments like the Lower East Side's Il Laboratorio del Gelato and Brooklyn's Ravioli Fair, as well as coffee producer Moka d'Oro, served guests their respective specialties.
Match and XA collaborated on three other unique food stations. A salumeria on the main floor offered custom sandwiches from a selection of traditional cold cuts, cheeses, and condiments listed on a rough-hewn signboard. A café on the stage served made-to-order coffee drinks topped with sambuca, frangelico, or anisette, as well as a seven-layer hazelnut cake filled with espresso buttercream and chocolate frangelico ganache, dusted with crushed toasted hazelnuts, and studded with whole hazelnuts covered in edible gold leaf. And a first-floor wine bar poured Lorraine Bracco's custom-blended, custom-branded wines distributed by New Hampshire-based Maison Jomère.
Between feasting and dancing to DJ Qool Marv's tunes, guests enjoyed street fair games like the ring toss. (Plenty of made men were seen proudly carrying the stuffed animals that proved their prowess.) For guests who found the carnival games and packed dance floor below an eight-foot tall “S” (for Sopranos) marquee a
bit overwhelming, a more intimate space could be found upstairs by following handmade signs (attached to real signposts) to the roof. Dominic Chianese (aka Uncle Junior) serenaded guests with traditional Italian songs from this perch.
In the spirit of an Italian family event where guests are never sent home hungry, the crudite cart turned at the end of the evening into a produce and flower market where guests filled paper bags with oranges, figs, apples, carrots, celery, red carnations, and Godiva chocolates to take home.
Photos: Patrick Mulcahy (signs, room, wine bar), Jeff Thomas/ImageCapture (salumeria)
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