When I saw that one of my favorite movies of all time, Bull Durham, was being turned into a musical, I knew I would be there for opening night. Anyone that knows me, knows that I love movies and sports. Some don’t know about my love of musicals, theatre and art though. I can sing “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” with Curly, and just about every song from The Sound of Music.
The highlights of the show were the choreography and the lyrics of the musical. Choreography even invaded the set changes, using the well-defined muscles of the actors playing the baseball players. The lines were laced with double entendres, and while it borrowed heavily from the movie script, the new lines were cleverly intertwined. If you’ve seen the movie as many times as I have, you can pick which lines came directly from the 1988 movie, and which ones were created for the musical.
The first half of the production was all offense – lots of laughs, upbeat lyrics and music, and some risque skin-baring scenes, which helped earn the 16+ age recommendation. Let’s just say that Nuke gets down to his skivvies, and there was a full moon rising in Atlanta last night! The second half was all pitching and defense – slow songs, focus on the love blossoming between two sets of lovers – Annie & Crash, and Millie & Jimmy. Unlike the movie, this version highlights the Millie/Jimmy storyline as a doppelganger to the love triangle with the three main characters.
Another aberration from the movie version is the addition of the Hack Arnold (Joe Tippett) character, who tries to take Nuke’s place after he makes it to The Show. The best part of his role is his entrance, complete with his “Posse” and the song and dance number in the locker room.
One of the best song and dance routines takes place in the second half when Jimmy asks Crash for wedding night advice. The trio of Max Patkin (Joel Hatch), Joe “Skip” Riggins (Jordan Gelber) and Larry Hockett (Brent Bateman) had the audience in fits with their jazz hands and love advice for the novice Jimmy. Lyrics were catchy, with inclusions of “bless her heart” in the song “Every Woman Deserves to Wear White” during Millie’s bridal shower, and a self-inflicted jab from Benny Elledge regarding his dual role as bartender and umpire.
Regarding the acting, I loved the performances of Nuke (John Behlmann) and Crash (Will Swenson), but I felt that Annie (Melissa Errico) fell flat. Her voice was wonderful, but she just couldn’t deliver the lines with the same spunk as Susan Sarandon, including the delivery of Annie’s signature line, “Oh My!”
If you decide to catch the show, just remember that this isn’t a remake of the classic Bull Durham, and that it is an adaptation of the storyline, characters and some of the key lines of the movie. There was no lollygagging, but Crash did tell us what he believes in. Oh My!
Bull Durham: The Musical will be playing at The Alliance Theatre until October 3rd, right in time for the playoffs. If the Braves don’t make it, I may have to catch the last show to hold me over until spring training. One plus: I got to the theatre early to escape the rain, and I got a Durham Bulls t-shirt for being the first of 100 to show up! I will wear it with pride when I travel to Charlotte this weekend to visit family.