A Man of No Importance, an engaging delight.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

A Man of No Importance Book by Terrence McNally Music by Stephen Flaherty Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens Directed by Maxim David indie women productions

Part of the charm of A Man of No Importance is its modesty. Almost reflecting the tone of the title in its approach, the award-winning chamber musical is gently low-key, gradually working its way into unfolding a moving story about a bus conductor in 1960s Dublin.

With book by Terence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, the 2002 musical is based on the 1994 movie of the same name, starring Albert Finney as bus conductor Alfie Byrne. Byrne escapes his internal conflict and his mundane daily routine through his love of the works of Oscar Wilde — his role model — and his determination to mount a production of Wilde’s Salome in St. Imelda’s church hall (a most unsuitable location for a script that shocked from the outset and would certainly offend conservative Catholic sensibilities in 1960s Ireland.)

The St. Imelda’s Players are the regular riders (of varying talent and sensibilities) on Byrne’s bus route. His Salome in Adele, a newcomer to the route, and he tries to persuade the bus driver, Robbie, to play opposite her. Meanwhile, his sister, Lily, with whom he lives, tries to prod Alfie into romantic involvement with Adele, so that she will be free to marry her beau, the local butcher and would-be thespian, William Carney.

The indie women production, directed by Maxim David, reflects the simplicity of the storyline (although a fault of the script is that it is not clear why Lily won’t marry until Alfie weds), while allowing each of the characters to have a moment in the sun.

The musical direction by Paul Legault emphasizes the Irish tone of most of the score but never overwhelms the singers as Alfie’s tale unfolds.

As Alfie, Shaun Toohey wears the role with complete comfort, demonstrating that big dreams can ease ordinary lives, even as he tries to come to terms with his conflicting emotions and “the love that dare not speak its name.”

Other characterizations, particularly Arlene Watson’s Lily, have similar depth. Patrick Teed as Robbie, Barry Daley as Carney and Justice Tremblay as Adele also deliver strong performances. Sarah Olberg as Miss Curtin dances up a storm and Richard Cliff as Baldy delivers the single most moving number in the show as he sings The Cuddles Mary Gave.

Although the script includes a degree of disconnect between the lightness of Act I and the shadow hanging over Act II, the production as a whole is simply a quietly engaging delight.

A Man of No Importance continues as the Gladstone to March 25.
Director: Maxim David Musical director: Paul Legault Set: Lynda Cronin Sound: Mark Tye Lighting: David Magladry Costumes: Melanie Evans

Cast: Alfie Byrne………………………………………………………………Shaun Toohey Father Kenny/Carson…………………………………………………….Doug Thicke Mrs. Grace/Kitty…………………………………………………………Julie Racicot Miss Crowe………………………………………………………………Clarissa Fortin Miss Curtin………………………………………………………………Sarah Olberg Baldy…………………………………………………………………….Richard Cliff Sully O’Hara……………………………………………………………..Scott Lemoine Ernie Lally……………………………………………………………….Ahmad Al-Qadi Mrs. Patrick………………………………………………………………Beki Lantos Breton Beret/Peter………………………………………………………..Drake Evans Lily Byrne………………………………………………………………..Arlene Watson William Carney/Oscar Wilde…………………………………………….Barry Daley Robbie Fay……………………………………………………………….Patrick Teed Adele Rice……………………………………………………………….Justice Tremblay Orchestra Conductor/keyboard…………………………………………………….Paul Legault Guitars…………………………………………………………………..Neil Bateman Reed…………………………………………………………………….Brian Boggs Violin…………………………………………………………………Galina Rezaelpour Cello…………………………………………………………………….Sandra Allan


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