Sean Cercone: The Music Man

By Ty DeMartino ’90

Sean Cercon and wife Hallie dressed for the Tony AwardsSean Cercone ’99 is racing to the airport. He has a date with Mrs. Doubtfire. Cercone is CEO/president of Broadway Licensing, a company that develops, produces and distributes new and established theatrical properties worldwide. On this day, Cercone is dashing to Seattle to catch the out-of-town stage adaptation of everyone's favorite cross-dressing nanny, made famous by Robin Williams in the 1993 movie.

“Someone has to fly around the world and see musicals,” Cercone says, with a laugh, from the backseat of an Uber. “I guess it’s me. Dammit!”

The jet-setting is nothing new for Cercone, who has been at the helm of Broadway Licensing, acquiring, developing and distributing such musicals as Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, High Fidelity, A Bronx Tale and Escape to Margaritaville, co-written by FSU alum Greg Garcia ’92. “When I met with him I said, ‘Frostburg?’ And he said, ‘Frostburg?’” Cercone recalls. “It’s great to rep another Frostburg writer.”

It’s not uncommon that Cercone runs into another FSU alum while going about his daily work. When he was recently named a trustee of the national board of the Educational Theatre Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to honoring and enriching students’ theatrical education experiences, he recognized a name of another Bobcat on the list – Coty Warn Forno ’06, founder and director of Mountain City Center for the Arts in Frostburg.

“We texted each other right away and said, ‘Let’s talk about how we can help each other.’”

Having spent his career as an actor, director, producer and writer, Cercone attributes a great deal of his success to the strong foundation he received as a theatre major at Frostburg. “There’s a lot of people who fall out of this business, but there are several of us who are still in it,” he adds. “It’s an incredible testament.”

Sean CerconeA native of Cornwell, N.Y., Cercone first caught the acting bug in a production of South Pacific when he was in the fourth grade. After many musicals in high school, he auditioned for Julliard and NYU, which both passed on a young Cercone. He decided he wanted a “secluded” place to work on his craft. “I needed to go somewhere and focus. I had so much catching up to do.”

Cercone immersed himself in FSU’s Department of Theatre, absorbing as much as he could about acting and the business. He later studied musical theatre at West Virginia University, earning his MFA and founding the West Virginia Shakespeare Festival. He toured with several theatrical companies before landing at the famed Carousel Dinner Theatre in Akron, Ohio.

Challenging experiences on the road with unfocused producers and directors shifted Cercone’s personal focus. “I wanted to create an environment for artists – just as passionate as I was – to create,” he recalls. “The ‘who’ is so much more important than the ‘what.’”

At Carousel, Cercone climbed the ranks to artistic director and forged relationships with national theatre organizations and boards. He also worked with an actress/dancer named Hallie who would later become a Radio City Rockette and Cercone’s wife. It was a time of professional and personal growth for Cercone.

“My job as a producer is to create an environment where artists can exceed their own expectations of their work,” he says. “And at the end of the day, [you ask yourself] are you creating good work?”

Cercone’s good work eventually took him to Chicago and then New York City and a position as chief business officer of Theatrical Rights Worldwide. Branching out on his own, he created Broadway Licensing in 2017 and has penned the books to several musicals, including Saturday Night Fever and Elvis – the Musical, which is in development.

Networking, relationship-building and working with quality artists are the main priorities of this Broadway professional, as he makes his way to the airport, yet again, to catch a new musical.

“Again, it’s about the ‘who,’ not the ‘what.’”

Mrs. Doubtfire would approve, dearie.