After writing twelve albums of songs in styles ranging from folk/rock to Tin Pan Alley to gospel, country and chamber music, what might a woman deemed by National Public Radio as “The Empress of the Unexpected” try next?
Write a Broadway musical, of course.
Which is just what Susan Werner is doing these days, along with writer and director Ron Shelton (Tin Cup, White Men Can’t Jump); writing “Bull Durham, The Musical,” based on the beloved 1986 MGM film. The show eyes a Spring 2017 Broadway debut.
Werner’s score has already received accolades from its 2014 Atlanta tryout: The New York Times praised her “flavorsome lyrics,” stating Werner is “a singer/songwriter making a confident musical theater debut,” while The Atlanta Journal-Constitution took it further: “Werner knocks it out of the park with a first-string score of gospel, rock and folk numbers.”
And as audiences will testify, Werner’s been knocking it out of the park – or, concert hall – all around the US for twenty years. Reknowned as a charismatic performer, she’s known above all for challenging herself to conquer new styles, almost like mountaintops, every few years. From her 1995 major label debut on BMG/Private Music, the folk/rock gem “Last of the Good Straight Girls,” to her 2004 Koch Records collection of Tin Pan Alley styled originals “I Can’t Be New,” to her 2007 “agnostic gospel” hymnal “The Gospel Truth,” to 2013’s tribute to agriculture and her Iowa farm roots “Hayseed,” Werner’s creative restlessness has become her defining characteristic. “I like concept albums, because they provide a place for the audience and the artist to meet. You may not know me and I may not know you, but we both know something about a farmer’s market, about what it is to sit in a pew at church and wonder what life means, we both know something about falling in love and maybe falling back out again. I like to have a starting point for an evening’s conversation with an audience – it’s a great icebreaker.”
She first arrived on the national stage when her 1995 BMG/Private Music debut earned her national concert tours with Joan Armatrading and Richard Thompson. In 1996 Werner was featured as part of the “next generation” in Peter Paul and Mary’s PBS special LifeLines. She has performed on NPR’s World Café three times, NPR’s Mountain Stage nine times, and in August 2016 Nebraska Educational Television will broadcast “The Land Will Outlive Us All,” a one hour special on Werner, agriculture, and her 2015 concert tour across the state.
Her songs have been recorded by Tom Jones and Michael Feinstein, Broadway stars Betty Buckley and Christine Ebersole, and countless individuals and ensembles. But Werner says she’s just getting started: “I’m at work finishing up an album of songs inspired by a trip to Cuba. And I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland – hey, maybe I could learn the bagpipes. It’s not impossible….is it?”