Mu­si­cal cel­e­bra­tion of theatre a Wilde ride

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ran­dall King

‘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.

GARY BAR­RINGER

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.

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