Musical 'Bull Durham' In Atlanta: Still In Minors
Sex, baseball and religion come together in a pleasurable but uneven new tuner based on the 1988 film “Bull Durham,” preeming at Atlanta’s Alliance Theater. Like the Bulls, the North Carolina farm team of the title, the show has its scruffy charms, renegade spirit and occasional dazzle. But there’s still work to do before this tuner steps up to the “show,” slang here for when a player makes it to the big leagues, especially with a second act that loses its aim once one of its stars steps off the plate. A musical home run or two — or even a triple — would help to bolster a score that flags as the innings wind down.
As source material, the film supplies strong characters, colorful dialogue and a playful and easy-going sensibility that hovers around a musical backdrop of gospel, honky-tonk and ballads. Ron Shelton nicely re-crafts his sly and frisky screenplay for the stage, expanding several of the supporting characters (the team clown, a pious player, a baseball groupie), adding a few updated elements and even creating a new player.
Remaining at the heart of it all is the story’s love triangle: the baseball muse Annie Savoy (Melissa Errico) who selects one rookie to bed, guide and inspire each season; a talented-but-dim pitcher “Nuke” Laloosh (John Behlmann) and a good-but-not-good-enough catcher “Crash” Davis (Will Swenson), characters memorably played in the film by Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Kevin Costner.
The first act establishes the fun, presenting the setting, story and character dynamic, with the act ending with a pair of terrific numbers: the aptly-named, crowd-pleasing “Winning” and the battle of the sexes face-off “Still Got It.”
But the show loses its way in the second half, meandering in several directions as its lack of focus becomes more obvious. Flaws include a laggy wrap-up after the triangle loses a character, and the absence of an overriding theme or a standout song.