Broadway on the road

| 02 Aug 2016 | 10:48

To Bob Bucci, live theater is unlike anything else. Therefore, it is only fitting that as president of the marketing division of Broadway Across America, he gets to share his passion for Broadway with cities throughout the nation.

At 16, he came to New York to pursue acting at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and transitioned to the marketing side of the industry 20 years ago. When Broadway Across America started its marketing division, they recruited Bucci to join the team and now his job includes overseeing 38 markets across North America. Through his work, he travels up to 15 times a year to promote shows like “Chicago,” “The Book of Mormon,” “Kinky Boots,” “The Lion King” and “Wicked,” and is looking forward to working on “Hamilton,” “Aladdin” and “On Your Feet!” as they begin their tours.

“It’s a really exciting time for us right now because there’s such diversity on Broadway within the offerings that are on as well as the types of shows,” he explained. “And that’s exciting for us because that is going to translate out onto the road.”

How did you get started at Broadway Across America?Our community is a very small one. I started working for Michael David and The Dodgers; they’re the producers of current shows like “Jersey Boys.” And from there, I went to another company where I was working on various Broadway shows on marketing and sponsorship. And from there I went to the Weisslers who handled “Chicago” and throughout that I made a connection with someone who ended up starting the marketing division for Broadway Across America seven years ago and they asked me to come join them. It’s been an incredible ride and feels like my career has pushed me to the right places at the right time each step of the way. I am very fortunate.

Why do you think it’s important to bring Broadway to other cities? When I worked on the Broadway side, yes, we targeted theatergoers in what I would call the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and specifically the New Yorkers who live within the five boroughs, which usually happened within the first year to two years in the life cycle of a show. But then you work on a show like “Chicago,” which has been around now for 20-somewhat years, and your audience changes and is from outside New York. So when I started to really delve into the touring market, their audiences are New York’s audience, so it’s great that we’re nurturing something that’s American-made and truly part of New York which is what Broadway is. But to be able to take that and cultivate it in the backyards of these cities is really exciting.

How is it different marketing shows outside of New York?It does change market to market. Every single market is different. The audiences are different in every market. How you sell a show is slightly different in every single market, so you really have to look at the bigger picture of each city and say, ‘Well, I know that this is how the show has worked in other places, but we need to tweak some things slightly.’ Sometimes not at all, but sometimes slightly to fit that city to reach the customer that you’re trying to reach.

Can you give us an example of a show you needed to tweak to fit a certain market?The easiest answer to that question is there are some markets that are a little more conservative. So for a certain show that might have mature content like “Spring Awakening,” when it went on the road, we had to look at every single market and how much we had to explain and educate. Some markets didn’t worry about that; other markets were very concerned about that and took months to get the message out into the community as to the power of the show. And it might not be for everybody, but we always find if you explain to your audience what they’re going to be seeing, especially our subscribers, which are our tried and true patrons, if you give them up front what they’re going to see, then they’re comfortable when they see it. If they’re surprised by it, then they’re not. Sometimes it’s so subtle that you say, ‘This TV spot will resonate more with our people than this TV spot” or “Radio probably is the way that we should go in Atlanta because it’s such a commuter market.” So sometimes it’s really subtle and sometimes it’s much larger.

Who are some memorable people you’ve met through your job?I pinch myself every day. I’ve met Sting … I don’t even want to go down the star side of things because everyone who is part of this industry does it because they love and have an ownership of it and that, to me, is just as exciting, being with a group of colleagues. I’m going to be at a Ticketmaster conference in New Orleans in a couple of weeks and that to me is just as exciting as being at the opening of a show where Susan Stroman, Oprah or Audra McDonald is sitting behind us.

Which shows have you seen this year?Obviously “Hamilton” has had a huge impact on all of us within the industry and it’s becoming a pop culture phenomenon, which has been fantastic. “The Color Purple” was a great example of a piece that I knew and saw before, but this has been totally reimagined and it’s brilliant. Another reimagined show that came out this past year was “Spring Awakening.” That was with Deaf West and there were deaf people as well as regular actors. And just the way that it elevated the piece was fantastic. The revival of “The King and I” was amazing. “On Your Feet!” is incredible.

In your opinion, what does a show need to be sustainable on Broadway?That’s a really good question and I don’t think anyone knows the answer to that. If we all had the magic bullet, every single show would survive. Having worked on “Chicago,” I know that Barry and Fran Weissler felt that this production of it was special and wanted it to be seen by a larger audience. But I know in their wildest dreams, they never imagined that it would be celebrating 20 years on Broadway and having the same impact 20 years later.

Your husband also works in theater. Did you meet through your jobs?I met him through my boss at the time and someone who worked for him. And we were set up on a blind date and of all places, went to Joe Allen, the theater hangout. And then we had an official evening date that Saturday and 10 years later, luckily, we were able to get married. And we got married and we’ve been together for 14 years.