The old maxim, "There are no small parts, only small actors," is not only a familiar line in the world of theater (which you will hear in this currently running production), but it also speaks favorably of the ensemble in A Man of No Importance itself. Each performer shines in their individual moments while serving as important cogs in a well-oiled machine. All are engaged, whether performing onstage or off to the side in listen mode. Presented by Hoogland Center for the Arts and directed by Laurie Barnes and her capable cast, staff and crew, A Man of No Importance is a skillfully crafted and tender musical that fiddles with your emotions, strums your heartstrings and eventually breaks your heart. Don't worry...it gets put back together again.
A Man of No Importance is the second successful collaboration by the team of Terrence McNally, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, all of whom won Tony Awards for Ragtime. The unique musical is based on the 1994 film starring Albert Finney as a closeted 1960s Dublin bus driver who loves to recite poetry to bus riders and pursue his passion of producing amateur theatrical productions with the St. Imelda's Players. He also leans on his imagined friendship with the ghost of Oscar Wilde, who advises him in both life and love. After he decides his next production will be Oscar Wilde's controversial one-act tragedy, Salome, his contented, comfortable life takes a turn.
Craig Williams II, as the naïve and exuberant Alfie, anchors the show. At one point, his character speaks passionately about how there's nothing like, when playing a part, to lose oneself in a role. Williams' portrayal is art imitating life as his Alfie will bring you to both laughter and tears with an authenticity and innocence that made me want to run onstage and give him a hug. He is closely matched by Sam Steere as Alfie's work partner and close friend, Robbie, who sings the roof off the place in Act One and Diane Dietz as his frustrated but well-meaning sister, Lily.
The entire cast deserves kudos for delivering consistent and solid Irish accents, impressive vocals and compelling characters. They include Alyssa Shultz, DJ Shultz, Steve Kaplan, Matt Ratz, Dennis O'Brien, Kevin Kulavic, Linda Schneider, Christie Lazarides, Kristin Wheeler, Mark Wheeler, Karee Prince and Alex Edwards. The show buzzes along at a pleasing pace and looks and sounds great. The onstage orchestra, led my Mary Meyers, will surely make audiences want to dance a jig in the aisles or crave a pint of Guinness. Some themes and moments throughout the show include Catholic guilt and violent bigotry. But the gentle beating heart of Alfie Byrne is a lifeline and, I believe, redeems all in the end.
The show continues in the Peggy Ryder Theatre Nov. 10-12. Friday and Saturday performances will start at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday matinee will start at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults; $18 for seniors (over 60) and students. Call 523-2787, or log on to hcfta.org.
Mary Young was born and raised in Springfield has been performing in, producing and directing live theater for decades. She's done film and voice-over work, performs occasionally with local bands and looks forward to making up funny stuff soon with improv troupe The Portuguese Rodeo Clown Company.