“A Man of No Importance” is actually a musical of great importance! Playing at Classic Stage Company (CSC) at 136 E. 13th Street, it is important because this touching, powerful musical with a lovingly written book by Terrence McNally and heart-stirring lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty is a love letter to Dublin, one of its most famous sons Oscar Wilde, and the intoxication of theater. Theater is very dear to many of our hearts—it is freeing, an escape, transforming, and something that can bring everyone together. The musical focuses on Alfie Byrne, a bus driver by day, but leader of an amateur theater company in Dublin, Ireland in the 1960s by night. A company full of regular people, the butcher, the housewife/mother—a bunch of neighbors who have become a community due to their love of the arts. Alfie is determined to put on Oscar Wilde’s “Salome,” but finds pushback since his theater company’s space is controlled by the Catholic Church.
Alfie has a passionate relationship with theater. He believes that theater is a sacred thing and that creating a reality for people to buy into and then having that first rehearsal and planning how to bring life to the story and the characters, is a blessing in one’s life. He is also a great fan of Wilde for not only the beauty of his writing but the fact that Wilde was a person who dared to experience a different type of love, a forbidden love in his life. This type of unspoken, unacceptable love is something that burns in Alfie as well.
This musical shows the homophobia and censorship that controlled the theater in Dublin in the 1960s. As Alfie battles to do his production of “Salome,” he also gets inspired by his idol Wilde to try something different, no matter what others may think. Try something different no matter what that might mean in the lives of those who know and love you. This musical lets the audience see the prison that people who love differently live in on a daily basis and the scrutiny they are always put under. But in the end, you also see that people can look past society’s phobias and support and love their friends.
Sitting in this intimate theater you were immediately engrossed in the pure passion and love that Alfie has for theater and the place that it has also in the hearts and lives of his fellow amateur thespians. You also get to know the motivations of the other members of the company, for making sure they get to the theater for rehearsal and find themselves buzzing with the thrill of putting on a show.
The singing in this musical is absolutely captivating. This cast makes ensemble work look easy. Everyone’s performance just flows with an entertaining and kind delight that will warm your soul. Jim Parsons is fantastic and incredibly well-cast as Alfie. His passion for the arts is something that blatantly penetrates his soul. Mare Winningham as his sister Lily is delightful, as she tries to get him interested in women and off of theater. A. J. Shively and Nathaniel Stampley are magnificent as they play Robbie, a bus driver, and Father Kenny. These men may be familiar as they were last seen on Broadway in the phenomenal “Paradise Square.” Shereen Ahmed is captivating as Adele Rice, a new girl in town who is cast in the role of “Salome.” She has a lovely singing voice. Da’Von T. Moody plays the dual roles of Peter/Breton Beret and he is outstanding. This is truly a cast of thespians that demonstrate the importance of giving the gift of great theater. Additional members of this extraordinary cast are Alma Cuervo, Kara Mikula, Mary Beth Peil, Thom Sesma, Jessica Tyler Wright, and Joel Waggoner. This musical has some of the most stunning design and direction by John Doyle.
If you are a lover of marvelous theater and especially incredible musical theater as I am, then you MUST make plans to go and experience “A Man of No Importance.” Hurry, you only have until December 18! For more info visit www.classicstage.org.