‘Bull Durham’ goes from silver screen to center stage at the Alliance Theatre

Will the international premiere be a home run?
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Illustration by Alex Fine
Illustration by Alex Fine

 

Can the Alliance Theatre hit a home run with the international premiere of a musical set in the world of minor league baseball? If all goes as planned, Bull Durham—adapted by writer-director Ron Shelton from his 1988 film starring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon—will play Broadway next spring. For now, director Kip Fagan thinks the show’s rock score, sports backdrop, and steamy love triangle will sit very well in this baseball-embracing town.

Bull Durham describes the fireworks that transpire, in the bullpen and the bedroom, when a veteran catcher and a rookie pitcher for the Durham (North Carolina) Bulls tussle over a woman. “It’s a coming-of-age story for people who are forty years old, rather than twenty,” Fagan says.

Before Shelton went Hollywood, he was a Baltimore Orioles minor leaguer, and Fagan believes that experience gives Bull Durham vitality. “We worked really, really hard not to glitz it up too much,” says the New York–based director. The music, by Chicago-based singer-songwriter Susan Werner, is “kind of eclectic” but definitely Southern folk-rock-tinged, Fagan says.

If the material seems a stretch for the theater, Fagan hastens to point out that vaudeville and baseball share elements of the carnival. Think of the catchy, organ-driven tunes; the characters in costume; the popcorn; the peanuts. “The entertainment is not just the game. It’s the whole experience,” he says.

Bull Durham, September 3–October 5, Alliance Theatre, alliancetheatre.org

This article originally appeared in our September 2014 issue under the headline “Songs in a Minor League Key.”

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