The company of Broadway's Epic Proportions was devastated to learn Oct. 14 that fellow cast member Richard B. Shull, the recognizable American character actor, had died that morning of a heart attack, a production spokesman told Playbill On-Line.
Mr. Shull, 70, died at his home in Manhattan at 6:30 AM. In the comic Epic Proportions, at the Helen Hayes Theatre, he played D.W. DeWitt, a distracted, cynical movie mogul in charge of a Biblical epic, but more interested in screening blue films as a way of escaping the pressures of moviemaking.
The company decided to play the Oct. 14 performance, and actress Kristin Chenoweth, of the cast, gave a curtain speech. Larry Cahn, Mr. Shull's standby, went on that night and will continue in the role until further notice. A production spokesperson said a Broadway memorial service for Mr. Shull was likely in the weeks to come, but no details were yet available.
In his off-hours in recent weeks, the silver-haired Mr. Shull was seen walking through the theatre district, impeccably dressed in a jacket and tie. Cast member Tom Beckett, his dressing roommate, told Playbill On-Line that Mr. Shull's precise, tailored figure represented respect for the profession and for his fellow actors. He called Mr. Shull a true gentleman, a professional from the old school.
Mr. Shull's credits under Epic director Jerry Zaks include The Marriage of Bette and Boo at the Public Theater (for which he won an Obie Award) and The Front Page at Lincoln Center. He was Dr. Migraine in Bill Irwin's A Flea in Her Ear at the Roundabout. In the Broadway musical, Minnie's Boys, he was Maxie, a female impersonator. In Goodtime Charley (1975), the fanciful musical retelling of the Joan of Arc-Charles VII of France story, set in the 1400s, he was Minguet, the oldest page in Europe.
He was nominated for a Best Featured Actor (Musical) Tony for Goodtime Charley, in which he sang "Merci, Bon Dieu," a rueful, ironic song about survival in hard times.
With Susan Browning, he warbled, "Another spring is on the way/We'll live to see another May/We're still alive/And here to say, 'Merci, bon dieu.'" The number is preserved on the show's cast album.
The song had the power to create both a smile and a tear, and helped earn both Mr. Shull and Browning Tony nominations.
Mr. Shull had an oversize, indelible face that made him recognizable to TV and movie watchers. He appeared in "Splash," "Housesitter" and was Alexander Holmes in the TV series, "Holmes and Yo Yo." Other Broadway stage appearances include Oh, Brother!, Ain't Broadway Grand and Victor/Victoria.
He is survived by his wife.