Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Dallas Review: A Man of No Importance

A Man of No Importance: A Musical of Much Importance

The Uptown Players' production of A Man of No Importance marks a definite return to the kind of musical that has become rarer and rarer these days: one with an adult, incisive story that contains equal portions of pathos and comedy; a soaring musical score with lovely music and intelligent lyrics; and one that drives home an important message that everyone in the audience can relate to.

Based on the 1994 film of the same name which stars Albert Finney, A Man of No Importance tells the story of Alfie Byrne; a bus driver in 1964 Dublin. A devotee of Oscar Wilde, he decides to stage Wilde's immortal play Salome at his church over the objections of the church authorities. In the process, he learns much about himself and his place in the world. It was presented as part of the Lincoln Theater's 2002/2003 season and was awarded the 2003 Outer Critic's Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical. A cast album was released in April of 2003.

The story, as adapted by Terrence McNally (Love! Valour! Compassion!, Master Class), combines elements of poignancy, feeling, and comedy seamlessly. It fully runs the gamut from A to Z—you are deeply moved at an emotional level one moment and breaking out in a true belly laugh the one. (A Man of No Importance contains some of the wittiest lines I've heard grace the stage in quite a while.)

The multi-faceted character of Alfie is sharply defined—as with many good playwrights, McNally is able to establish his motivations from the very beginning—and our empathy for him grows as the musical progress.

All the other characters are well crafted as well—McNally gives us real, living human beings with not a 'stock' or stereotyped character in the lot. Although a bit on the episodic side, McNally manages the story and characies rigidly—the construction and overall effect is as tight as a drum.

The score—Music by Stephen Flaherty; Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime) is a beautiful accompaniment to the story. Unlike many modern musicals; the music is truly melodic—with well-crafted lyrics. Given the setting of the musical, Flaherty takes some of his cue from traditional Irish music—but the score is as diverse as the story it is so firmly integrated with.

It ranges from the powerful title song to comic numbers like "Books" to the tender ballad "Love Who You Love." Ms. Ahrens has a true ear for wit to give to the many comic supporting characters—the lyrics sung by Alfie's Theater Company as they prepare for the production of Salome are ensemble pieces that Comden & Green would have been proud to have written.

As Director, Doug Miller has a steady held on all these various elements. It is quite apparent that he has a firm understanding of the story, characters and setting—and has directed his artists accordingly. The crowd-pleasing comic elements are all in place—but Mr. Miller never lets them detract from or overpower the serious message the show has to impart. Moreover, he has cultivated some fine performances out of his players.

Unfortunately, there is little choreography in the piece—but I guess any musical that features Salome's dance of the Seven Veils as a tap-dance doesn't call for much choreography!

As Alfie, Chamblee Ferguson does magnificent work. The character is the musical's centerpiece—its fortunes rest entirely with him—and Mr. Ferguson delivers. As the tortured soul who finds solace in Art and Oscar Wilde, he truly gets inside the very character of Alfie—and forces us right inside Alfie as well. Mr. Ferguson helps us understand that in a sense, we are all "Alfies"—searching for who we are and how we fit into Society. Mr. Ferguson hasn't done many musicals—but I'd love to see him to do more. Although not a heavily sung role, his voice was more than up to the part's requirements—and he fully understands that in a musical, lyrics must be acted as well as sung.

Pamela Peadon as Alfie's sister Lily had her share of moments as well. Like the piece, Ms. Peadon had to balance drama and comedy—and came up a winner on both counts. It is obvious that she has learned the craft of the Musical Performer well—and it shined through in both her acting and singing.

The supporting cast is uniformly excellent—with special mention going to Rick Prada as a stage-struck butcher ("I know about both kinds of Ham!) and Jane Willingham who performs the afore-mentioned Tap-dance of The Seven Veils.

For those of you looking for an adult musical with an important message that will make you both laugh and cry—with excellent musical numbers and some fine performances as well, then you need to look no further than A Man of No Importance.

The production runs February 11 through March 6, 2005, with shows at 8PM on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and a matinee on Sundays. Tickets can be purchased at www.uptownplayers.org or by phone at 214-219-2718.

Photo Credit: Mark Oristano

 


Related Articles

From This Author Joseph Melnicoff

Joseph Melnicoff was born in Philadelphia, and his love affair with the theater began when his parents took him to see the great Ethel Merman (read more...)