Susan Werner’s music hits homerun in Alliance Theatre’s ‘Bull Durham’

The world premiere musical “Bull Durham,” based on Ron Shelton’s own experiences and the classic film, is up and running at the Alliance Theatre, and while reviews have been a bit mixed, most everyone seems impressed by the score of musician/songwriter Susan Werner.

Producers in New York approached Werner, who is openly bisexual, several years ago, telling her her music had a “theatrical” style.

“They liked that the songs had a realization, an epiphany or some kind of transformation or psychological development,” Werner recalls.

Although she’s admittedly always written music that’s more like theater than pop songs, she never really thought about writing for the theater at all.

“The producers took me to dinner and they said they were writing a musical,” she says. “They asked me if I liked baseball and then asked if I wanted to write this. I couldn’t breathe for five minutes. This was the opportunity of a lifetime.”

She did a lot of research, watching and studying musicals. “I started going to a lot of shows,” she says. She would take a Sharpie with her to productions and take strenuous notes. “I knew nothing about this stuff,” she says. “How it’s put together—the structure, elements like lights and sound and staging; how it all contributes to the storytelling, working on transitions and reprises.”

Coming up her with 18-song set took a while. “A couple of songs came fast, but others I had to fight tooth and nail for,” she says. “The opening number took a while.”

Werner is no stranger to the area—she has played Eddie’s Attic every year for 20 years. She attended “Bull Durham’s” opening night with her female partner, who she married in May of this year. (A good number of other LGBT actors and crew members in the production brought their spouses too, she says). “The first time we had an audience was so exciting, one of the thrills of my life,” she says.

Out performer Mark Harmon is in the cast of “Mamma Mia,” which has returned to the Fox Theatre courtesy of the Atlanta Broadway Series again this year. He plays Harry Bright, one of three suitors who are invited to a Greek island and could be the father that young Sophie is looking for to walk her down the aisle.

Harmon’s Harry is a British banker. “When you first meet him he is this stuffy, very British snob,” the actor says. “He gets to recapture the spontaneity of his youth. I really like that fact that they allowed me to put my own take on it.”

Harmon is a big fan of the musical and thinks nostalgia and the music of ABBA have kept it popular. “That’s the big draw and it’s very clever how they use the songs,” he says. “They haven’t changed. They are still performed the way they were written originally, but sometimes they will take a very poignant ABBA song and make it funny, the way it’s presented. ”

The audience reaction always pleases him. He’s had people tell him they see it every time it’s nearby. “We’ve also had people see the matinee and go right to the box office and buy a ticket for that night,” he says. He has been with show since August, when he started rehearsals, and will continue through the summer of next year.

Another big show for Harmon was the national tour of “Hairspray,” where he played Wilbur Turnblad.

“That was such as fun show,” he says. “I miss the guy. I would love to play him again.” He’s also been been in a version of the gay-themed “The Normal Heart” in Florida, where he now lives, and the infamous “Gilligan’s Island: The Musical,” which he calls “a very charming show, sort of a mashup of a lot of ‘Gilligan’s Island’ shows with music.” He played The Professor.

‘Bull Durham’
Alliance Theatre
1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta, GA 30309
Through Oct. 5

‘Mamma Mia’
Fox Theatre
660 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30308
Through Sep. 28