by Mo Brady
Some roles feel built for the actors who originate them. Tommy Bracco, who made a memorable Broadway debut as Spot Conlon in the original production of Newsies, returns to the Nederlander Theatre in the recently-opened production of Pretty Woman: The Musical. In the show, Tommy Bracco plays a role that seems tailor-made for his talents and personality. What is even more remarkable about Bracco’s skilled performance is that he wasn’t the first actor to play the part.
In the original workshops of Pretty Woman, the role of Giulio the Bellhop was created by Giuseppe Bausilio of Broadway’s Billy Elliot and Cats. When Bausilio was not available to continue on with Pretty Woman (due to being in the Broadway company of Hello, Dolly!), Bracco was invited to audition. “I remember having a great feeling about it,” says Bracco. “Whether I booked the role or not, it didn’t matter.”
That great feeling led to Bracco being cast in the show’s tryout in Chicago and subsequent Broadway run. However, when Bracco stepped into rehearsal for the first time, Giulio had just four lines. Now his role is one of the most featured in the show with Bracco’s comedic and athletic chops on full display. “Jerry (Mitchell, director) is the type of creator who likes to change things over and over until they are perfect,” reveals Bracco. “If something isn’t furthering the story, he feels no ego about throwing it away and starting again. We spent many hours in the rehearsal room trying out different choreography that he built on our bodies.”
One of those moments built on the performers’ bodies made it through the show’s multiple iterations into the final version of the show. “When rehearsing ‘Luckiest Girl In The World,’ Jerry turned to me and said, ‘We need a big dance move to finish the number. Tommy! Whadda ya got?’” Bracco offered his favorite flip - the rose plop - which has been a part of the song’s choreography ever since.
Those kind of large changes continued as the show began performances in Chicago. “We would get to the theater and find a stack of script changes on our dressing stations every single day,” admits Bracco. “New interactions, new scenes, new songs. It was a challenging, exciting and extremely rewarding process.”
Many of those interactions were created for Bracco and Eric Anderson, who plays Giulio’s boss and cohort, Mr. Thompson. There’s a respect and camaraderie in their performances that is evident from the audience. “I could go on and on about how much I love and respect Eric,” shares Bracco. “Most of my lines are with Eric, but we do most of our communicating with our eyes. Eric can just give me a look and I know exactly what he saying. It adds a real texture to our performance.”
One of Bracco’s most memorable numbers is one that he shares with Anderson. In “On a Night Like Tonight,” the two actors join together as an unlikely tango duo. “When we first join hands and take our first step, the audience laughs,” shares Bracco. “I’m not sure if it’s the guy-on-guy dancing or the ridiculous height difference, but either way, doesn’t matter, they’re laughing.” As the continue to dance together, the cheering from the audience builds until the moment Anderson lifts Bracco into a upside down tango pose. “The audience goes nuts,” Bracco acknowledges. “It’s my favorite moment of the show.”
With such a taxing role, Bracco finds that self-care is essential to maintain his stamina. “The biggest way I prepare is making sure I am taking care of my mind, body and soul,” says Bracco. “When you walk into a room feeling well-rested, prepared and confident, it goes a long way. My favorite line from Pretty Woman is: ‘With confidence and attitude, you can walk into any room, just like you own the place.’”