“On a clear day, it will astound you,” sings John Cullum with sweet sincerity as the Accidental Star takes to the stage to shine and share some of his lucky accidents, all in support of Vineyard Theatre (Artistic Directors Douglas Aibel and Sarah Stern), Goodspeed Musicals (Artistic Director Donna Lynn Hilton), and Irish Repertory Theatre (Artistic Director Charlotte Mooreand Producing Director Ciarán O’Reilly). Conceived by Cullum and Jeff Berger, the 80-minute intimate engagement is a collection of stories and songs that span Cullum’s illustrious stage career as told and sung by the intelligent and charming 91-year-old Tony Award Winner. It’s the sweetest of creations, this on-demand streaming show, that premieres on April 8th at 7pm EDT and is available through the 22nd, and one any theatre buff shouldn’t miss as it’s chock full of curiosities, antidotes, and behind-the-scenes tales told with a simple and inclusive storytelling style that will charm and connect.
Directed and filmed with ease earlier this year by Lonny Price(110 in the Shade with Cullum; Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard) and Matt Cowart (associate director, 110 in the Shade), An Accidental Star shines forward with honest straightforward glee. He’s obviously very grateful for every little accident that found its way into his life, from the moment he got his first paying job in New York City carrying a spear in a Shakespearian tragedy to starring on Broadway. “So what the heck,” the man states gently, and we can’t help but join him with grace on his journey, curious and smitten for the man that made his 1960 debut opposite Richard Burton and Julie Andrews in the Lerner and Loewe classic Camelot. What a beautifully charmed entrance into Broadway, and as written with clarity and authenticity by David Thompson(The Scottsboro Boys with Cullum), with music supervision by Georgia Stitt and music direction by Julie McBride, we applaud as he makes his way charismatically through the Golden Age of the American Musical with never-before-heard stories of his starring roles in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Urinetown and The Scottsboro Boys. Cullum shows “those baritone bastards” a thing or two as he works and makes lifelong friends with the likes of Burton, Robert Preston, Robert Goulet, Julie Andrews, and more, and we feel blessed to be joining him on his reminiscent journey.
Known to many as the tavern owner Holling Vincoeur in the television drama series “Northern Exposure“, (a show I just recently rewatched with love while hanging out in a lake-side cabin without WiFi (only a DVD player) most appropriately in the middle of the Canadian Rocky Mountains), to the Broadway junkie, he is far more well known for his performances on stage in a number of high profile musicals and dramas, including 1975’s Shenandoah for which he won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. In 1966, he won his first Tony nomination as the lead actor in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, a show that obviously sits very warmly in this man’s warm and tender musical heart. He followed Shenandoah by playing the Broadway producer Oscar Jaffee in the 1978 musical On the Twentieth Century, opposite the fantastic Madeline Kahn earning his second Tony Award. He received his fourth Tony nomination in 2002 for originating the lead role of evil corporate president Caldwell B. Cladwell in the surprise (especially to him) hit, Urinetown The Musical, and his fifth Tony nomination in 2007 for the revival of 110 in the Shade, playing H.C. Curry, father to Audra McDonald’s Lizzie. It’s a compelling and impressive resume, one that could have been very different if he had followed his Shakespearian love connection to the end. But what a loss that would have been for musical theatre. And even with his admission of one guilty accident along the way, An Accidental Star stands true, as a lovingly funny and moving statement on passion, love, and determination. Even as his singing voice wobbles a bit with age as he shares songs that fill our collective hearts we glee, his storytelling ability shines bright, as he guides us with ease through the history of a career and an artform he obviously loves with every fiber of his being. “I wasn’t much of a singer“…but there is “nowhere else on earth I’d rather be,” he tells us with simple honesty. And we can only join him completely with that statement, so “Calm down, Agnes,” and catch Cullum, an actor inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2007 (something he ‘forgets’ to tell us), as he shares with us his accidental journey from office boy to Broadway star. He shies away from boosting, but his rise is a tale worth telling and an utterly charming theatrical piece to be in attendance to.
Director of Photography is Carlos Cardona (2018’s ‘Scenes from a Breakup’) with costumes by Tracy Christensen (Irish Rep’s Meet Me in St. Louis) and lighting by Megan Peti (Off-Broadway’s A Little Princess). Line producer is Adrian White.
John Cullum: An Accidental Star will be presented April 8-22, 2021. Streaming tickets are available now at https://www.vineyardtheatre.org/an-accidental-star/. For more information, call the box office at 646-931-4714 or visit www.vineyardtheatre.org.
Premieres April 8 | Runs Through April 22
Live Watch Party Events: April 8 at 7:00pm EDT, April 17 at 2:00pm EDT.
Book Tickets at https://www.vineyardtheatre.org/an-accidental-star/.