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‘Bull Durham’ Is a Grand Slam
at the Alliance Theatre

2014 September 16
John Behlmann and cast; Photo: Greg Mooney

John Behlmann and cast; Photo: Greg Mooney

Scene after scene, the new musical “Bull Durham,” loosely based on the motion picture of the same name, is batting a thousand at The Alliance Theatre.  If all it takes is a smash hit here to make it on Broadway, this world premiere and cast should be packing its bags soon.

This show, whose book is written by the original screenplay writer, Ron Shelton, pops starting with the opening number, “Opening Day.” The new baseball season brings Nuke (John Behlmann) reminiscent of Gary Bussey’s wacky film portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis, to Durham, N.C., to become the new baseball star. He meets the bewitching Annie Savoy, who falls for him and the team’s catcher, Crash Davis (played by Will Swenson here and by Kevin Costner in the screenplay).

The musical brings more playful fun–and bawdiness–than the original screenplay, and these characters are more exciting to watch. Sexy siren Annie Savoy (Melissa Errico–Susan Sarandon’s character in the film) can shake you to the core when she belts out a torch song or sings a ballad that rips at your heart.

This production has one of those rare casts where EVERYONE is extraordinary and believable. Behlmann manages to make this cartoon-like dimwitted character totally believable. Even the ball team’s mascot (the actor is not credited in the playbill), who hassles Nuke on the sidelines, is eye catching, lovable and believable. The singers are all great, most notably the Bull’s coach, Larry Hockett (Brent Bateman) and Millie (Lora Lee Gayer).

Choreographer Joshua Bergasse mixes dances with typical baseball player  moves like chest bumps and fights (set in slow motion). The hip-hop number (song and dance) is absolutely hilarious. Set designer Derek McLane also deserves a shout-out for simple but life-like sets, especially his honky-tonk bar whose shelves are filled to the top with bottles of liquor.

There is not one thing I disliked about this show. The show itself gets an A, but the cast gets A++.

Music and lyrics by Susan Werner, directed by Kip Fagan, “Bull Durham” runs at the Alliance Theatre through Oct. 5.

Cast: Randy Aaron, Jake Boyd, Chris Critelli, Khris Davis, Lily Dickinson, Erica Dofler, Benny Elledge, Wilkie Ferguson III, Randi Garza, Lora Lee Gayer, Jordan Gleber, Meg Gillentine, Joel Hatch, Manuel Herrera, Harrison McCall Lewis, Koh Mochizuki, Chase Peacock, Diany Rodriguez, Travis Smith, Manuel Stark, John Clarence Stewart, Will Swenson, Joe Tippett, Alpha Trivette, Laura Wright.

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