Former subscriber Ceceri marks 100th NSMT show
BEVERLY — It’s not often you move from the audience of a theater into its front office, but that’s just what happened to Mike Ceceri, 46, a native of Coventry, RI, who now lives in Salem.
Ceceri was a subscriber at the North Shore Music Theatre before he went to work there — he kept his subscription until 2008 — and is now director of marketing and communications. He is hard at work on what is the 100th show he has worked on during his NSMT tenure: The 60th season opening production of “Dreamgirls” that opens June 2 at the Beverly theater.
Ceceri was so impressed by NSMT’s August 1998 production of “Hair” he decided it was a place at which he wanted to work.
Ceceri was already working as a graphic designer at a local ad agency when he wrote a letter to then-Marketing Director David James describing his experience and skill set.
James was intrigued and invited him to interview for a job as a marketing assistant, but the theater later decided not to fill the spot.
Meanwhile, his hours working at the agency decreased, and after being laid off in 1999 he began volunteering at NSMT in the press and marketing offices, working as many as three or four days a week.
In 2000 he became a paid staffer, working in both the press and marketing departments, and currently also does press and marketing for NSMT owner Bill Hanney at his Theatre by the Sea in Matnuck, RI.
“Mike Ceceri is a combination of passion and talent,” said Hanney. “He’d take a bullet for this theater.”
Hanney is a self-described “micro-manager” and said Ceceri has never had a problem with his hands-on approach when he would pop into Ceceri‘s office.
“He’s never had a problem with my advice, ideas or comments,” Hanney said. “He told me ‘I want you to like what I’m doing.’”
Hanney said when it comes to most marketing ideas, he and Ceceri “have the same brain.”
Ceceri was one of the first marketing people in the area to see the possibility of using social media when publicizing the theater and its shows, and posting reviews.
Ceceri ‘s love affair with NSMT actually started when a friend who was an NSMT subscriber took him to a production of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” in 1995. He became a subscriber, and held his subscription until 2008.
“It was fun to get to know the members of the community who sit around you,” he said. “It’s a different level of involvement, seeing other people enjoying the show along with you.”
Ceceri took it hard when, early in 2009 after a disastrous run of “High School Musical II” was the final financial nail in the theater’s coffin, he had to clear all of the personal items from his office before the theater officially announced its closing.
“As a staff person you worked so hard to keep it going and you asked yourself ’was it all for nothing? Will we just be an asterisk?”
Ceceri cleared out his personal things from his office but kept the box in the back seat of his car, as a sign of his faith that the story wasn’t over, that there were more memories to be made to add to the existing ones. “I knew it would reopen,” he said.
After the theater let him go, he was able to work for Brad Kenney and the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine for the 2009 summer season, commuting between the North Shore and Maine.
There was joy when Hanney announced in November 2009 that he would be purchasing and re-opening the theater, and Ceceri signed back onto the rush to get things back up and running for the 2010 season.
“There was no heat in the buildings and we were working in the Broadway Club with space heaters,” recalls Ceceri about those first days.
But he and the theater were back.
“People were so happy to see us back, and this is such a tight family,” he said.
Ceceri’s love of theater has also made him a walking, talking encyclopedia on the subject, according to NSMT publicist Julie Arvedon Knowlton, who has worked alongside Ceceri since 2003.
“Forget about Google — Mike is the go-to person for all things musical theater,” said Knowlton. “He loves the theater and his passion for North Shore Music Theatre is contagious.”
“Whether creating marketing plans, designing brochures, ads and the website, overseeing photo and video shoots, or manning the press table on Opening Night, Mike gives NSMT his all. I congratulate him on his 100th show at NSMT!”