The real star of ‘A Dog Story’? The title canine, the actor concedes.

Bickford Theatre hosts the New Jersey premiere of the musical comedy which had a successful off-Broadway run in 2016. Former 'Jersey Boy' Daniel Robert Sullivan stars.

 

The advertisements and the posters for the Bickford Theatre‘s production of  “A Dog Story” feature humans. That’s misleading, according to Daniel Robert Sullivan, the show’s lead.

“The dog is the emotional heart of the show,” admits Sullivan, who acknowledged the animal in question achieves this without singing a note or dancing a step. “There are a lot of musicals about the guy and the girl falling in love but this one has a twist: it’s the boy and the dog falling in love.”

The Bickford’s production, which premieres April 13 and runs through April 22, is the first regional performance of “A Dog Story’ since the show had a successful off-Broadway run in 2016. It garnered a Broadway World nomination for  “Best New Off-Broadway album” and earned multiple pun-heavy positive reviews: “…will have you rolling over in delight … with no need to sit up and beg for this treat of a show;” “a fluffy puppy of a romantic musical comedy;” and “…fall head over heels (paws?)…” 

Sullivan starred in the Bickford’s 2008 production of “Almost, Maine,” a romantic comedy that had a disastrous and brief off-Broadway run before going on to become one of the most reproduced shows in the country. When he saw the script for “A Dog Story,” he was eager to return to the Morristown theater.

“I was charmed by it,” Sullivan said. “It’s so different.”

The core story revolves around Roland, a hard-working lawyer who is convinced he’ll never become a partner in his firm unless he’s married. Following a friend’s advice, Roland adopts a dog — aptly named Cupid – to attract female attention. 

Roland, Sullivan said, is anxious, emotionally stunted and awkward. That portrayal would be a challenge for him: Sullivan spent four years playing Tommy DeVito in the Las Vegas, Paris and touring productions of “Jersey Boys.” 

“I played the cool character. I’m not playing a cool cat anymore,” Sullivan said. “This is me revisiting my nervous-y roots. My character is definitely not cool, so immature and awkward, and so much fun to play.”

Sullivan hails from Rhode Island but the fact that his major career roads have involved the Garden State isn’t lost on him. He spent two years auditioning for “Jersey Boys,” documenting his rejections and eventual success in his 2012 memoir “Places Please! (Becoming a Jersey Boy).” He always had the accent down — “It’s kinda similar to Rhode Island’s,” he said — and he worked on the attitude. 

“There’s a confidence in Jersey, especially in old school Jersey, a bold aggressive belief in yourself and what you have to say,” Sullivan said. “Frankly it took me some time to get to that.”    

Sullivan didn’t have to learn how to love dogs, having grown up with a gray and brown mutt named Pal.

To promote the show, Sullivan has also hosted an Instagram contest asking people to tell him why their dog is the best in the world.

“Everybodys got a story, whether it’s your first puppy or your current man’s best friend,” he said.

Sullivan’s tight-lipped when it comes to describing his canine co-star, noting only that “there’s a way for each audience member to think it really is their dog in the show.” He also noted that potential fame has not gone to the pup’s head.

“He’s very humble little thing. He has his own little space backstage,” Sullivan said. “I wouldn’t say he’s a diva at all.” 

A DOG STORY

Bickford Theatre, Morris Museum

6 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown

Tickets: $20-45, available online at http://morrismuseum.org. April 13 – 22. 

Natalie Pompilio is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. She can be reached at nataliepompilio@yahoo.com. Find her on Twitter @nataliepompilio. Find NJ.com/Entertainment on Facebook.  

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