Dot’s McDonough brings Whitey back — on Wilbur stage

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Dorchester native Neal McDonough, an acclaimed actor best known for his work in HBO’s Band of Brothers and Yellowstone, took the stage at Boston’s Wilbur Theatre on Tuesday night to portray one of our city’s most notorious and well-known characters of the last century, James “Whitey” Bulger.

McDonough, 57, was born in Dorchester to Irish-born parents who lived on Percival Street next to St. Peter’s Church before the family moved to Hyannis. He now lives in Los Angeles, where his acting career continues to thrive.

On Tuesday, as he made final preparations to take the Wilbur stage, McDonough (at left) told the Reporter that he hopes the “one-night-only” performance at the Wilbur will be well received and revived for longer engagements in theatres, and possibly a television series.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “I always wanted to come back and do something like this in my hometown and I’m really looking forward to see how the audience reacts. It’s so entertaining.”

The show— sponsored by Northern Bank— is an adaptation of the book “Hunting Whitey” by Dave Wedge and Casey Sherman, two veteran Boston reporters who focus on Bulger’s later life and death in prison.

“Playing someone like this, I feel like my career to date has been a warm-up for this moment. What a character Whitey is— hated by so many, loved by so many.”

Wedge, who is also co-producer of the show, said McDonough is perfect for the role.

“With all due respect to Johnny Depp and others, Neal is such an accomplished actor who has played tough villains. But he also looks like Whitey, with the beard and those piercing blue eyes. Plus, being from here, he really understands the impact Whitey had on the community and the lore behind it,” said Wedge, who covered the Bulger case as a reporter for the Boston Herald.

“Casey and I never thought about doing a Whitey Bulger book. We both covered the story off and on. The Herald sent me to Tenean Beach and Florian Hall when bodies were discovered. I watched all the great reporters write all the books, but thought: That’s well-tread territory. But then Whitey got killed in prison [in 2018]. So, we told the story about his life on the run, and then how he got caught. That’s what this show is about: the aging gangster running from the law,” said Wedge.

“Long term, we want to have this back to Boston and bring it to other cities, Los Angeles, maybe New York and London as a stage show. The long-term goal is to turn it into a series.”

McDonough noted that he has never done a Boston-based project and said he’s excited to rediscover his old stomping grounds and show his five children around Ronan Park and Bowdoin Street, where he has memories of playing stickball. He hasn’t been “home” since his father, Frank, passed away seven years ago.

“It was such an amazing place to grow up. I’m really looking forward to what this project will mean for all of us.”

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