Musical celebration of theatre a Wilde ride
‘BLESSED are the poor of imagination, for they shall inherit the cinema.” Heard early in A Man of No Importance, that bitchy observation from Dublin bus conductor Alfie Byrne (Arne MacPherson) seems a little harsh in context. After all, this 2002 musical by Terence McNally (book) Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) is an adaptation of a 1994 film starring Albert Finney. But the comment does establish a couple of things you need to know about Alfie. He is a lover of the theatre and aspires to the cutting wit of his hero, Oscar Wilde. In fact, mounting Wilde plays such as The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere’s Fan (and one would guess A Woman of No Importance) is Alfie’s singular passion in his capacity as the director of the St. Imelda’s Players. The troupe is a church-basement theatre company consisting of a small, enthusiastic group of amateur actors. Such is their thespian ebullience (summarized in the sprightly comic tune Going Up), they all sign on to Alfie’s next project, the most scandalous of all Wilde plays, Salome. Alas, in the Catholic enclaves of Dublin, in the year 1964, there are limits to the kind of material that could be produced. Concurrent with his fight to produce the play, Alfie is obliged to confront his own secret desires vis á vis “the love that dare not speak its name” — the Wilde-era coded reference to homosexuality. Compounding the confusion, Alfie’s associates believe him to be smitten with the newly arrived rural lass Adele (Laura Olafson) he has chosen to play the title role. In fact, he yearns for bus driver Robbie (Matthew Fletcher), a man who has romantic secrets of his own. Director Donna Fletcher effectively stacks the deck of this Dry Cold production with set designer Brian Perchaluk’s order-from-backstage-chaos set design, dramatic smoky lighting by Scott Henderson and music director Joseph Tritt’s elegantly minimal orchestral accompaniment of piano, reeds and cello.
A solid cast of Winnipeg musical theatre veterans, combined with excellent set design, lighting and musical direction make A Man of No Importance a wise weekend choice.